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1990 

THAT WAS 
THE YEAR 
THAT WAS 



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CONTENTS 



INTERVIEW 


have burnt 
my fingers” 

Former high commissioner 
to London Kuldip Nayar on 
his stint at India House, his 
resignation and why 
Chandra Shekhar hates him 
so much. 



PERSONALITY 


Memories of 
the left 

The veteran Marxist, Jatin 
Chakrabarly, looks back in 
sadness. 


ANALYSIS 


NEWSWATCH 

Age of 
uncertainty 

While mainstream 
politicians indulge in 
skullduggery, the Naga 
National Council tries to 
unite. 


How secure? 

Sharad Pawar’s position 
weakens. 


BUSINESS 

Taking stock 

The best, the worst and the 
amazing — the 1990 equity 
yearbook. 


SUNIW 


VOLUME 1 7 □ ISSUE 51 n RS 8 00 
AN ANANDA BAZAR PUBLICATION 

30 DECEMBER 1990—5 
JANUARY 19^ 


LEHERSi 
SIGHT AND SOUND? 
COUNTERVIEW 8 
MEDIA MUSINGS14 
MANI-TALK 16 

GOSSIP SWEET AND SOUR 27 

PROFILE-66 

NEWS 75 

KHAAS BAAT83 

SPOTLIGHT 86 

BOOK REVIEW 99 

Writing in the rain 

SPORTS 100 

Tears and triumphs 

SUNDAYWEEK102 
THIS INDIA 104 
RANDOM NOTES 105 
DELHI DIARY 106 



Cover transparencies. 

Gaiitam Patois, NMn 
Ral, Ashoko Chakraborty, 
VIvek Das, Sondesp Shankar 
and Phal S. Glrola 


SPECIAL REPORT 


Manipur goes into a panic as 
Alps strikes. 


Printed and published for Ananda Bazar 
Patnka Ltd by Biiit Kumar Basu and 
edited by Vir Sanghvi from 6 & 9 PrafuNa 
Sarkar Street Calcutta 700 001 
Air surcharge for Srinagar exrDelhi and 
Tripura: 20 paise, Norih-eaalem etales: 
30 paisa 



















Friends and 
foes 


T he cover story. Who's 
in, \vho'\ oiii, J5 
Decenihc! ) tleservcs 
praise. It has been a 
practice of Prime Ministers 
to keep people close to 
them in the higher echelons 


■The country has several 
bureaucrats who would like 
1o lulfil their ambitions by 
using their political 
connections 
( handia Shekhar is 
j making a semblance of an 
I effort by cleat mg out some 
pettv bureaucrats, which, 
hopefully, will lead to an 
impiovement of the lot of 
the masses 

By retaining people with 
personal loyalty, and 
nothing else, earlier Prime 
Ministers had blundered. 

( handra Shekhar could 
well be a trendsetter 

B.N. Bose, Calcutta (West 
Bengal) 


Money power 


T he write-up (Makini^ 
millions >. 2— H 
December) makes one 



ol the bureaucracy. Hence, 
politicisation of the 
bureaucracy is not exactly a 
novelty. Foi instance, we 
can lake the example of the 
arbitrary changes in 
(lovei nors as soon as a new 
Prime Minister comes to 
power. 

Chandra Shekhar can 
change the trend by 
retaining the bureaucrats 
with genuine talent 
Aivind Padhee, Varanasi (Uttar 
Pradesh) 


thing clear, money power, 
especially black money, 
plays a big role in Indian 
politics. All sorts of 
measures taken to counter 
this evil have not yielded 
any results. And at times, 
muscle and media power 
tend to create ominous 
trends. In order to tackle 
this, the entire 

system — dowm to the 
grassroots level- has to be 
overhauled with a great 


degree of courage and 
determination. 

A. Jacob Sahayam, 
Trivandrum (Kerala) 


Justice 

denied 

I t is ludicrous that 
hardened ciiminals can 
escape punishment solely 
because of caste factors 
(Reprieve for a ripper, 

11 — 17 November). The 
fact that ('handrail was let 
off with onlv a slap on the 
wiist IS a sad reflection on 
our society The day isn’t 
too far off when murderers 
will gel away scot-free on 
the basis of their alleged 
‘backwardness’. The 
chaotic situation that will 
come about, should this 
happen, is best left to one's 
imagination. 

A. Srinivasa Murthy, 
Secunderabad (Andhra 
Pradesh) 

■ It was surprising to read 
about a notorious criminal 
who escaped a death 
sentence on account of his 
caste 

I'he tact that he was 
arrested must have been a 
relief to the people, but 
now that he lias been given 
a reprieve, it is a matter of 
concern. 

Should there be 
leservalions in prisons 
also? 

E.S. Dass, New Delhi 


The Raja’s fall 


T he answers given by 
V.P. Singh ( "Chandra 
Shekhar ean break the 
Congress ’, 2—8 
December) are far from 
satisfactory. The former 
Prime Minister lost his 
position owing to total 
dependence on the BJP and 
a reluctance to find a 
solution to the Ram 
.lanmabhoomi/Babri 
Masjid issue. 

Ilis stand on the Mandal 
Commission and the 
Kashmir question also led 
to his downfall. As far as 



I Singh; no clear-cut policy 


his statement that monev 
had a big part to plav m 
bringing Chandr.i Shekhar 
to power , It »s a matter ol 
opinion 

The new Prime Minister 
! should be given a fair 
chance to serve the peojile. 

K. V. Raiagopalan. Madras (Tamil 
Nadu) 


Going the 
Punjab way 


T ile interview of Pralulla 
Mah.uita ( lownrds 
anarchy, 1— S December ) 
was quite mtercslmg It 
cKmi Iv i/.’ings out that he 
knows the w her eaboiiis of 
the I'l 1 A militants. Now 
with the imposition of 
President's Rule m Assam, 
things ar e expected to gel 
better. But the ( 'cut re 
should be careful so that 
things do not go the Punjab 
or Kashmir way. The plight 





4 


SUNDAY 30 Dsoember 199D-5 January 1991 



ot the common man in 
Assam should be kept in 
mind. For the average 
Assamese, it has been a 
long story of deprivation, 
despair and neglect. And 
even today, he doesn't 
know how to gel out of the 
trap. 

Salbal Guha, Calcutta (West 
Bengal) 


Sandak is 
safe 


T his has reference to the 
article Fif*ht back (4- 
10 November) and our sub- 
sequent letter published. 
We would like to inform 
readers of the recent de- 
velopments in the matter. 

1'he Karnataka State 
Disputes Redressai C<^m- 
mission, has by an order 
dated 25 November. I WO. 
dismissed the complaint 
fried by R. Ramachandra. 

It was tound that the com- 
plainant's grievance ot 
developing white patches 
on the soles of his feel after 
wearing the ‘Sandak' brand 
of ctiappals manufactured 
by us IS unproved. 

Ramachandra’s adamant 
attitude in refusing to 
undertake any medical test 
and examination by the 
government’s medical 
board did not help his case. 
Incidentally, our company 
offered the official test in 
front of the commission 
during the pioceedings. 
The commission also 
held that our company, 
through medical and che- 
mical experts, has estab- 
lished that the ‘Sandak’ 
brand of footwear is not 
injurious to human skin. 

DM Banerjee, manager, 
corporate and legal, Bata, 
Calcutta (West Bengal) 


The fires of hell 


T he cover story (The 
fires of Ram, 2 — 8 
December) was balanced 
and authentic. The story 
makes a Hindu feel 
ashamed of himself because 



L.K. Advani: arousing Hindu passions? 


ot the B.]P's tundamentalist 
policy, rherc is no denying 
the tad that the Muslims in 
this countiy have been 
placed on a high ped'^stal 
but that does not mean that 
the B.IP should follow the 
policy ot an eve for an eye. 
Ihe government should 
introduce a uniform civil 
code for the whole country 
without regard for anv 
caste or creed. 1'his will go 
a long way in keeping 
religion out of politics and 
restoring communal 
iiarmony. 

Lakshman Sharma, 
Chumukedima (Nagaland) 

■ Nineteen ninety was the 
year of I lindu revivalism. 
The change in the I lindu 
psyche was perceptible 
And, the secular creden- 
tials of India took a back- 
seat. The fervour created 
by the Ram Janmabhoomi 
issue will not subside m a 
hurry. Though the BJP 
stands to gain from all this. 
India faces criticism from 
all quarters for not hand- 


ling the situation properly. 
The country is passing 
through one of the darkest 
periods in history. 

Joy Ganguly, Asansol (West 
Bengal) 


Casteist press 


I t was V superb piece of 
journalism ( ( 'astc away, 
25 November - I Decem- 
ber). It was a pleasure to 
have a journalist exposing 
the double standards of his 
fellow scribes in such a 
lucid manner It is all the 
more commendable w hen 
the issue concerned is 
something as controversial 
as the Mandal report, its 
implementation and the en- 
suing public outcry. As he 
rightly put it, the naked 
bias and hysteria shown by 
the media was mind- 
boggling. The reason for 
this is that 75 per cent of 
the country's press is con- 
trolled by the upper castes. 
And when the question ot 


Police confront anti-Mandal protestors in Delhi 



caste comes up, the so- 
called principles of journal- 
ism take second place. The 
irony is that it is these same 
enlightened and impartial 
journos who call others cas- 
teists. 

Shyam Govind, New Delhi 


The coterie is 
back 

T he cover story (The new 
team, 25 November — I 
December) was timely and 
succinct. To be fair, the 
new team headed by Chan- 
dra Shekhar should be 
given some time before a 
proper assessment can be 
made. The only advantage 
that the new faces in the 
( abinet have is that they 
arc an untried and untested 
lot. They will leally take 
time to know the ropes be- 
fore they settle down to the 
task of governance. The 
only common factor that 
Chandra Shekhar shares 
with his predecessors is that 
he has a coterie of trusted 
lieutenants to fall back on 
during times of stress and 
strain. 'Fhe vital question is 
w'hethei this coterie will 
help Shekhar to sail 
through smoothly. 

Subhashis Ray, Rourkela 
(Orissa) 

■ C handra Shekhar has al- 
V. ays displayed art uncanny 
knack of being a manipula- 
tor. He has also been a 
master in the craft of back- 
room politics. He took up 
the cudgels on behalf of In- 
dira Cjandhi during the 
l%9 Congress split but a 
couple of years later, he let 
down his mentor. In a simi- 
lar fashion, Shekhar pulled 
the rug from under V.P. 
Singh's feet Today, he has 
only a few men to rely 
upon, such as Yashwant 
Sinha, Subramaniam 
Swamy and Kamal Morar- 
ka to formulate the govern- 
ment’s policy. But this 
time, the odds are heavily 
against Shekhar. So. one 
can only hope foi the best. 
Chlranllb Haidar, Trivandrum 
(Kerala) 


SUNDAY 30 DeMfflbor 1990— 5 Januaiy 1991 


5 





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SIGHT AND SOUND 



M K LAXMAN- fHC \!)A 



■ 1 don’t buy this theory, 
and 1 think ♦his kind of 
isolation strengthens me. 

L.K. Advani. BJP 
president, replying to 
charges tl^at his party was 
being isolated from the 
people 

D Nobody felt it was a 
party’s government which 
came to power. It was an 
individual’s government. 
V.P. Singh's government, 
Mulayam Singh’s 


governmenl. 

Ajii SiNdM, senior Janata 
Dal leader, on the lack of 
cohesion within the former 
Janata Dal - led 
government 

■ I should have held the 
elections in Punjab when 
the atmosphere was 
conducive. 

V, P. Singh, former Prime 
Minister, admitting it was 
his biggest mistake as 
Prime Minister 

■ He (Chandra Shekhar) 
is a scarecrow surviving 
on the oxygen supplied by 
Rajiv Gandhi. 

Lai-oo Prasad Yadav, 
Bihar chief minister 

■ Chandra Shekhar will 
be a successful Prime 
Minister. His future is 
bright. He will achieve 
success in solving the 
country’s economic crisis 
and two other major 
problems...! haven’t 


thought about these two 
as yet. 

Chandra Swami, 
con iro versial godman 

■ V.P. Singh should be 
critical of the Bihar 
government for the 
assault on him as he had 
done against the Madhya 
Pradesh and Uttar 
Pradesh governments. 

VUAYAKAIK SciNDIA, BJP 
vice-president 

■ 1 would like to wain 
the C entre not to fall into 
the hands of the 
Congress(l) and dislodge 
a non-rongress(l)-led 
government as it did in 
other states. 

Vamuzo, Nagaland chief 
minister 

■ They are basically 
interested in creating a 
Tripura- type situation. 

P.K. Mahanta, /ormer 
Assam chief minister, on 


the Congressi I )*s policy in 
Assam 

■ What is the point of 
saying the team of the 
Nineties if you don't win 
matches. A good team, 
call it by any name, is one 
that wins matches. 

Azharkddin, Indian 
cricket captain 

■ It is far easier to face 
life when you don't think 
of tomorrow. Then it 
doesn’t scare you... 

Dimple Kapadia, actress 



SUNDAY 30 Oecembar 1090-fi January 1991 







COUNTERVIEW 


VINOD MEHTA 


Is India falling apart? 

No. Its very size will ensure its stability 


0 dira Gandhi was 

found myself in 
London. That 
evening I sat with 
two other mourn- 
ful souls — an En- 
glish academic 
from the School of 
Oriental Studies and an Indian intel- 
lectual who had lived long years in the 
UK — in a BBC television studio ready 
to deliver sombre thoughts on a som- 
bre subject. Just before we came on 
the air, gruesome shots of Sikhs being 
massacred in the burning capital 
flashed before the screens followed by 
reports of anti-Sikh rioting in several 
parts of the country. The chain- 
smoking moderator in a tone which 
was half condescension and half self- 
satisfaction turned to me and asked, 
“So, Mr Meehtar (this after having 
coached him for ten minutes on how 
to get the pronunciation right), is In- 
dia falling apart?'* In the minute or so 
1 had, 1 put to my inquisitor a counter- 
question. Supposing the Irish terror- 
ists had shot dead Mrs Thatcher. And 
supposing fierce rioting had broken 
out in Northern Ireland with some 
spill over in Catholic-dominated areas 
of England. Would BBC studios all 
over the country conduct discussions 
on the imminent collapse of the Brit- 
ish social order? Very unlikely. I sug- 
gested that Indian democracy was no 
hot-house plant, it had demonstrated 
its resilience over 40 years and it had 
also established its capacity to with- 
stand shocks. Unfortunately, each 
time a crisis gripped India, foreign 
observers instead of addressing the 
crisis got busy writing off a sovereign, 
democratic society committed to the 
rule of law. I told the moderator that 
we had proved our critics wrong be- 
fore — and we would prove them 
wrong this time too. 

The English academic generally 
agreed with me, but the non-resident 
Indian fihook his head profoundly. He 
declared that 1 was overly patriotic 
and sanguine in my prognosis — a de- 
fect, he conclii|ded sagely, common to 


many natives. Civil war would soon 
break out, he said. Punjab would 
secede from the Union, followed by 
much of the north-cast. Muslims and 
Sikhs would join hands against the 
common enemy and large-scale com- 
munal riots w'ould break out. Indian 
politicians and political parties would 
panic in front of such bloody anarchy 
and invite the army 

Six years on, despite riots, assas- 
sinations, terrorism on the rampage, 
secessionism in full flow and army rule 
common in many states, the NRI'sdire 
prophecy remains unfulfilled. The na- 


national woes. Wc are quick to pro- 
nounce the patient terminally ill when 
all he is suffering from is high temper- 
ature. Ask any reasonably intelligent 
middle-class Indian and he will tell 
you he is damned if he will allow his 
children to languish here. “It is too 
late for me, but I will not gamble with 
their future; this country is finished” is 
the common refrain. 

Nowadays, the sapped self- 
assurance is especially visible. Every- 
where one goes there is talk of things 
falling apart with no one ready to do 
the mending. The fall-out of the Ram 
Janmabhoomi conflict has under- 











1 j 

H 





o 







The Nehruvian consensus has been crushed under the weight of Advani’s 
rath. We are told this concept must be jettisoned because it is anti-Hindu 


lion has survived. It could be argued 
more than just survived, the country 
has actually prospered with some in- 
ternationally respected think-tanks 
announcing our emergence as a super- 
power both in military and economic 
terms. Nevertheless, large sections of 
the educated electorate have been jos- 
tled into harbouring doubts over the 
durability of the Indian Republic. 
That the state is under assault is no 
longer a matter of dispute, but is its 
condition hopeless too? 

If false optimism is a besetting sin, 
so is unnecessary beating of breasts. 
No one can match Indians when it 
comes to self-gloom. There is a streak 
of masochism in our enjoyment of 


mined the confidence of substantial 
parts of the population. On the face of 
it, the crisis is absurd. That some peo- 
ple should be tearing this country 
apart for the sake of one temple (or 
one mosque) is beyond the compre- 
hension of most citizens. What is even 
more bewildering for them is that one 
set of Hindus is accusing the other of 
apostasy, and the minority within the 
majority which is doing the accusing 
seems to be in the ascendance while 
the majority is leaderless and lost. 

Such is the barrage of propaganda 
inflicted by the minority on the major- 
ity that even sane citizens are begin- 
ning to question the nation's most 
basic and cherished assumptions. 


SUNDAY 30 Otoembar 199D-5 January 1 W1 



Could it be that the grave perils, 
whether they be in Punjab or 
Ayodhya or Kashmir, arc symptoma- 
tic of a deeper malaise? Have we orga- 
nised our social order on ideas which 
are inimical, even hostile, to Indian 
reality? Do we need to rethink the 
basis of Indian nationhood to restore 
health and sclf-contidence to the body 
politic? These and i elated questions 
plague the minds of sober citizens and 
the danger is that in the prevailing 
mot)d of anxiety and confusion many 
of them might be husMed into believ- 
ing that a fundamental restructuring 
IS, in fad, both necessaiy and urgent. 

Trom Soninath to Ayodhya, the 
new right is pioclainnng that the 
“Nehruvian consensus' has broken 
down; it should be allowed to rest in 
peace This consensus, which has held 
the country together since Independ- 
ence, has apparently been taking a 
knocking since the earl\ ’7()s and was 


finally crushed under the weight of 
L.K. Advani's decorated rath. No one 
has yet come forw^ard to provide a 
precise definition of Nehruvian con- 
sensus, but I suppose the reference is 
to a humane and tolerant community 
in which the state nurtures, even cele- 
brates, religious, ethnic, cultural and 
linguistic differences. Now we are told 
this concept must be jettisoned since it 
is alien and, more crucially, because it 
is anti-Hindu. 

What would we pul in its place? 
Again, no clear model is available but 
probably some version of Mr Bal 
Thackeray’s good Muslim, bad Mus- 
lim is being contemplated. Moham- 


med Azharuddin in, Syed Shahabud- 
din out. Mr Advani and others of his 
persuasion are careful not to overtly 
push for a theocratic state along the 
lines of Pakistan. Instead, a benign 
Hindu rashtra in which minorities are 
welcome to stay provided they behave 
themselves and live by precepts laid 
down by the majority. It seems Hindu 
rashtra is really Ram rajya in dis- 
guise. Given the history, character 
and faith of the Hindus, these rules 
will be most generous and include a 
measure of individual autonomy. 
However they will be Hindu rules and 
offenders have little hope of sym- 
pathy. The advocates of the Hindu 
consensus are in a tearing hurry to get 
their blueprint off the ground and into 
the statute books. However, wc must 
ask them to tarry and confirm whether 
their diagnosis is correct. 1 for one 
would like a second opinion. 

That the Nehruvian consensus is 


under siege is incontestable. But has it 
capitulated? Because the silent major- 
ity is currently voiceless and low on 
morale, it might seem so. Actually, 
there is some fight left in an idea 
which has nourished almost the entire 
Indii n political leadership since 1947. 
Let us be certain it is dead before we 
bury it. 

In the meantime, the forgcjs of the 
new consensus might like to consider 
their geographical influence. In the 
south and the east their writ hardly 
runs. In the west their reach is res- 
tricted largely to Gujarat. Thus, only 
in north India, and even here in the 
Hindi belt, do they enjoy some hold. 
The reason why they seem omni- 


present is because they propagate 
their cause with frightening zeal. 
Actually, they are a handful who 
through guile and artifice have seized 
our imagination. 

As we move into a new decade 
there is good cause to dread its arrival. 
We have survived the follies and 
treachery of our rulers, we have with- 
stood the vagaries of the weather 
gods, we have learned to live with 
misery and want. However, never be- 
fore have we inflicted such savagery 
on our fellow citizens and never be- 
fore have wc been less sure about the 
way we govern ourselves. Yet, even as 
Hindu zealots push us towards inci- 
pient fascism, let us contemplate our 
strengths — strengths which, miracu- 
lously, have endured assault after 
assault. 

First, India is a vast country. There 
can be instability in one stale or two or 
three, but it is virtually impiossible to 
destabilise the entire country. In the 
past few weeks in Maharashtra, it is 
only the morning papers which inform 
us of the carnage in near-by Gujarat. 
During the height of the Mandal agita- 
tion, the south, west and cast were 
entirely j)eaceful. How many people 
in Calcutta are directly affected by the 
killings m Punjab? Our hugeness is 
our protection. Secondly, there has 
never been a lime in l ie life of the 
Republic when some part or the other 
is not visited b> violence, mayhem and 
curfew. As a result, the Indian state 
has developed shock absorbers. De- 
spite the fact that all our democratic 
institutions are sick, they do function 
fitfully and eventually manage to res- 
tore some sort of order. Thirdly, we 
have a burgeoning urban and rural 
midule class ( 150-200 million?) spread 
all o\er the country and they have a 
vested intered interest in order and 
stability. 

Finally, a country which has all ma- 
jor religions represented, which has 14 
official languages and people of every 
conceivable shapie, size and colour can 
only be administered through the 
Nehruvian consensus. Unless wc want 
to return to India circa 1500 we have 
no other option. 

Only fools and professional forecas- 
ters will try and spread good cheer ai 
the end of this horrendous year. 
Nevertheless, let us take comforl that 
while there are many things wrong 
with our country, there are some 
things which are right. In 1991, let us 
resolve to speak up for the latter. • 



During the height of the Mandal agitation, the south, west and east were 
entirely peaceful. Our hugeness is our protection 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990-5 Janueiy 1991 





INTERVIEW 


“I have burnt 
my fingers” 

Former high commissioner to London Kuldip 
Nayar on his stint in London, his 
resignation and why Chandra Shekhar 
hates him so much 





.Hr 







f ■ 


.5 ' t,'- ^ 

■UfuiMrtr ^ 










His was, he admits, a political 
appointment. And so, as soon as the 
Raja*s regime fell, Kuldip Nayar quit 
as India's high commissioner to Lon- 
don. But veteran journalist had, 
obviously, excelled himself during his 
stint at India House, for news of his 
resignation threw a pall of gloom over 
both the Indian community in England 
and the British. A resolution was 
moved in the House of Commons com- 
mending Nayar's performance, while 
the media mourned the exit of the man 
who had been, without doubt, the most 
accessible among the diplomatic corps. 

Now back in India, Kuldip Nayar 
intends to resume work as a journalist 
and political activist, as soon as he's 
through with his hook on his stint in 
India House. But even in the midst of 
his literary labours, Nayar took time 
off to speak to Sun da y's Scema Gos- 
waini on why he resigned, the con- 
troversy surrounding the Chief Jus- 
tice's death, his relationship with Prime 
Minister Chandra Shekhar and his 
plans for the future. 

Sunday: Why does Prime Minister 
Chandra Shekhar hate you so much? 
Kuldip Nayar: I really don’t know the 
reason why. But I think he has the 
impression — at least, that is what he 
has told a few people — that I did not 
allow him to become the Prime Minis- 
ter twice. 

If I recall correctly, 1 did not have 
anything to do with the making of the 
Prime Minister ever. But let’s stretch 
the point a little, let me see... 

In 1977, when the Janata Party 
came to power he had no chance be- 
cause then it was either Morarji Desai 
or Jagjivan Ram. Jayaprakash Narain 
did suggest his name but he had hardly 
anyone to support him. In fact, he 
even became president of the Janata 
because of Jayaprakash ji. And I knew 
JP very well so I don’t think I could 
have stood in his way at that time. 

But 1 did play some role in getting 
Devi Lai and V.P. Singh together for I 
did not want a contest at that time 
(when the National Front government 
was coming into being). I thought, or 
some of us thought — I was not alone — 
that it would probably create a cleav- 
age, which would be very difficult for 
them to overcome at a time when 
there were so many challenges. 

Looking back, I think that was 
wrong on my part. I committed a mis- 
take. I think an election should have 
” taken place. And V.P. Singh would 
I have won because at that time the vote 
was in his favour. So, I can’t imagine 


SUNDAY 30 December 1090—5 Jenuery 1001 



that 1 could have stood in the way of 
Chandra Shekhar at that time. 

We have been very good friends at 
one time. I have admired him in many 
ways. I think what probably must have 
annoyed him more than anything else 
was that there was a time when Char- 
an Singh was wanting to get his Lok 
Dal into the then Janata. And there 
was a formula also devised. At that 
time, Chandra Shekhar stood in the 
way and some of us were very upset 
and annoyed with him. 

After that we have kept our dis- 
tance. In fact, we’ve hardly met, 
maybe “hello-hello” or something like 
that. 

Q: But he did stand up in Parliament 
to call you a ^‘social climber'’. 

A: What a remark to make! My life is 
like an open book and whatever I am 
today I think I’ve earned every inch of 
it. I have clung to certain principles 
and I have stood by them. It was a 
very unfortunate statement. 

Q: But why call you a “social clim- 
ber”? What did that mean? 

A: I tliink if he had spoken in Hindi, 
he would have made better sense. 

Q: In retrospect, do you think that as a 
journalist >ou should have meddled in 
the aftairs of the Janata Dal at all? 

A: Well, I had been out of journalism 
for a while, in the sense that I was just 
writing a column. Since leaving active 
journalism 1 have been combining the 
role of activist and journalist. So tech- 
nically speaking, 1 personally feel that 
a journalist should not be doing thi^ 
sort of thing. But when there are cer- 
tain challenges before the nation then 
1 think everyone has to play some 
role. That was the time when 1 felt 
that for the sake of democracy some 
sort of opposition should be created. 
This sort of feeling was a fall-out of my 
detention during the Emergency. So, I 
wanted these people to succeed. 

Q: If such a situation were to recur — as 
when the Janata Dal came to power — 
would you play the same role? 

A: No, I think I have burnt my fingers 
that way. Politics has become so dirty, 
so personal, so petty now that there is 
no value-system left. Now it’s just who 
is stabbing whom and electoral poli- 
tics. 

Now that I have come back after 
eight years I find the country beyond 
recognition. I find ambitious politi- 
cians, mafia kings, communal over- 
lords. They are going to take over the 
country. And others, who still have 
some sort of moral values, they are 



Chandra Shekhar 

What a remark 
(Chandra 
Shekhar’s calling 
him a “social 
climber”) to make! 
I think he would 
have made better 
sense if he had , 
spoken in Hindi 


just quiet and inactive. They seem to 
have given up without joining in the 
battle. I think this is something very 
unfortunate. 

Q: Did you speak to Chandra Shekhar 
after he became Prime Minister? 

A; No, I did not. In fact, when this 
goveinment came to power, or when it 
became apparent that the V.P. Singh 
government was going to be defeated, 
it was still not very clear if he would 
continue as caretaker Prime Minister, 
or it elections would take place. The 



l.K.Guiral 


Even when I was offered the 
high commissioner’s post, I 
was quite reluctant to start 
with. Inder Gujral (then foreign 
minister) was the person who 
persuaded me 


moment it became clear that the Presi- 
dent had invited Chandra fJiekhar to 
form the government, I faxed my res- 
ignation to the President. It was sub- 
mitted on the night of 9 November 
and it must have reached here on the 
lOth. 

On l.'^th morning. 1 was sent a mes- 
sage that the Prime Minister had 
accepted my resignation. So, this was 
probably the first job he did after 
assuming office. 

Q: Did Chandra Shekhar ever send 
you a message or imply that you should 
quit? 

A; No, never. 

Q: So, you resigned of your own 
accord? 

A: Yes. You see, after all, I was a 
political appointee. So, it was only fair 
and principled that as soon as a new 
government came, you offer to resign. 

If he had asked me to continue, one 
vNould have to consider whether or not 
to serve his government. That was 
another problem. But, anyway, that 
eventuality never arose. 

Q: If you were asked to serve this 
government would you still have some 
contribution to make? 

A: Yes, 1 think I can still make some 
contribution, if I am ever called upon 
to serve the country. There’s no doubt 
about that. To me, my country comes 
first. 

Q: So, you aren’t completely disillu- 
sioned with political life? 

A: See, I’m definitely disillusioned by 
the way politics is functioning today. 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990-^ January 1991 


11 


INTERVIEW 


But I think we can clean the whole 
thing. Why should we have this kind 
of politics? 

Q: You said that your’s was a political 
appointment. And now that you*ve 
come back you intend to resume work 
as a journalist. Won’t your credibility 
be slightly suspect now that you are 
identified with a certain political party 
and certain political persons? 

A; Well, it's true that I was appointed 
by a certain political party. But there 
in London, I functioned as India's rep- 
resentative, not as the representative 
of any particular party. And my work 
of eight months is a testimony to that. 

I was reaching out to people there, 
whether they were Congressmen, 
Akalis, Hindu Mahasahhaites, Vishwa 
Hindu Parishad or Muslims, all of 
them. 

So, when I return to journalism — 
which I hope I shall in due course- 
people are bound to judge me on the 
basis that here was a person who was 
writing these kind of things, was called 
upon to serve his country and did so to 
the best of his ability. I am richer for 
the experience. 

I don’t think my writings will reflect 
any partisan point of view, I don’t 
think they ever did. Maybe some peo- 
ple will question me on that. But as far 
as I am concerned, I have certain com- 
mitments in life, towards democracy 
and towards fighting fundamentalism 
of any kind, whether Hindu, Muslim 
or even caste. And I will pursue them. 

But at the same time, 1 do want to 
combine my role as an activist — away 
from political parties — with my jour- 
nalism. 1 have been heading this 
forum called Citizens for Democracy 
(CFD), founded by Jayaprakashji and 
I am heading it again. Through this 1 
intend to fight this fundamentalism in 
our country. I don’t think we can save 
our society and democracy if it is given 
free run. 

Q: You mean you’re going to use your 
journalism as a weapon in this fight? 

A: No, not as a weapon. What I’m 
saying is that my column is going to be 
reflective and deal with certain issues. 
When I start writing my column — I 
have been doing it for almost 25 
years — one is always putting across 
some information, interpreting it and 
giving one’s point of view. 

Q: Committed journalism? 

A: No, not committed journalism in 
the sense of being doctrinaire or 
evangelist..^ 


A: Yes, but there are certain views of 
mine, on Punjab and Kashmir for inst- 
ance, which would be reflected. 

Q: The way you quit as high commis- 
sioner wa.s slightly unpleasant, though. 
In the sense that you left before you 
could be asked to leave. 

A: That may be one way of looking at 
it. But, you know, even when I 
accepted it, I was quite reluctant to 
start with. Inder Gujral (the then ex- 
ternal affairs minister) was the person 
who persuaded me. But when the gov- 
ernment fell and there were certain 
circumstances, I thought that... 

Now the second part is whether I 
would have served the new govern- 
ment, specially a Prime Minister who 
had made certain political remarks 
against me. If they had a.sked me to 
continue, it would have been but fair 
on my part to ask them to withdraw 
those remarks publicly. 

Q: Did this rather controversial end to 
yojr sojourn in London sour that ex- 
perience entirely? 

A: No, you see it came only two 
months ago. So, I had already done six 
months. And the way the people and 
the press reacted to the attacks on 
me... 

C'handra Shekhar was only one. The 
Congressmen were attacking me be- 
cause of my stand on the Emergency. 
The BJP was against me because I had 
attacked one of their members who 




Chief Justice Sebyasechf 
Mukharll 

I think when she (Ratna 
Mukharji, the Chief Justice’s 
widow) came to India 
someone instigated her. 
Maybe this was a time to have 
a pound of flesh or whatever 




supported sati, and they were annoyed 
at the strong stand I had taken against 
Hindu chauvinism. 

This did sadden me because I 
thought it was trivialisation of public- 
life when there are such important 
issues before the countiy. 

Q: What about the controversy sur- 
rounding the death of Chief Justice 
Sabyasachi Mukharji? 

A: Two days thev just wasted without 
even ascertaining facts. Now 1 have 
said in a statement, I have written 
otherwise, now please ascertain tacts. 
Judicial action to ascertain the truth 
should come into being and the people 
should know what actually happened. 
But there is no movement, no action. 

Q: Do you think they mean to bury it 
now that you have resigned? 

A: It seems like that, but 1 am in- 
sisting. 

Q; Who have you spoken to about this? 
A: One, 1 have issued a statement that 
a group of MPs, including Mr Chandra 
Shekhar who is now Prime Minister 
had asked for my recall on this issue, 
so that I could not influence the en- 
quiry. Now that 1 have quit, they 
should go ahead with it. 

I wrote to Mr Gujral before the 
government fell. I went to the foreign 
office and spoke to the officials there 
that, please, do something. 

What did the officials say? 

A; They are probably going to request 

SUNDAY 30 December 1990-5 January 1991 


INTERVIEW 



At London 

In the space of 
eight months, I 
spanned the 
distance between 
the high 

commission and 
the Indian 
community on 
one hand, and the 
high commission 
and the British on 
the other 


Mr Shukla, the new foreign minister, 
to pursue the matter. But I don’t 
know, 

Q: Have you met the foreign minister? 
A; Yes, but 1 haven't spoken to him. I 
met him when I was coming back from 
London and he was going. It was a 
ceremonial meeting only. 

Q: Have you approached the Prime 
Minister about this? 

A: No, not yet. 

Q: Why do you think this controversy 
arose? 

A: Over there she (Ratna Mukharji, 
the Chief Justice’s widow) was so 
grateful to me and my family for all 
that we had done for her. Even when I 
went to see her at the hospital and 1 
still had stitches for I had had this 
hernia operation, she was very 
grateful. 

I think when she came here some- 
one instigated her. Maybe this was a 
time to have a pound of flesh or what- 
ever. 

Q: But did you eiyoy your stint as a 
diplomat? 

A: Oh yes! I recall before going to 
London I called on Rajiv Gandhi, the 
leader of the Opposition. He told me 
that my job was quite a challenge. 
And he was right — it was quite a chal- 
lenge. But I took it up and I am glad 
that as a journalist I did not fail my 
fraternity. 

In the space of eight months, 1 span- 


ned the distance between the high 
commission and the Indian commun- 
ity on one hand, and the high commis- 
sion and the British on the other. And 
one can see the feedback. In the 
House ot Commons there is a resolu- 
tion commending my performance 
and 43 members sponsored it. 

On the whole, it was a very interest- 
ing stint. I got to see the other side, 
appreciate much more than 1 ever did 
before. Civil servants do face a lot of 
hazards. Sometimes we are not appre- 
ciative of the difficulties they may be 
facing. Sometimes an attack, or a 
calaumny is levelled on a civil servant, 
say in Parliament, and he is not there 
to defend himself. This is very unfair. 
I think we should do something to 
prevent this because, look here, these 
people are representing India abroad. 

Q: Did the journalist in you surface at 
all during your stay in London? 

A: Yes, in fact as soon as I went there 
was this strong edit on Kashmir in The 
Independent , a very influential paper. 
So, I wrote a reply which was pub- 
lished very prominently. Then again 
they approached me to write some- 
thing on the Gulf, explaining my point 
of view. Then two months after I ar- 
rived I invited the British press to 
India House over a curry lunch. More 
than 200 journalists, editors and 
others, came. And I told them, look 
here, this is your club now as long as I 
am here. Some of them wrote about it. 


I did certain things for them. There 
was a lot of difficulty about clearance 
of visas. I said any journalist applying 
for a visa, whenever he does so, just 
clear it straight away. Because a jour- 
nalist’s job is such that something hap- 
pens and he has to go suddenly. I got a 
lot of letters about this. In fact. The 
Telegraph editor wrote to me that he 
was very happy that his correspon- 
dent, who had to be flown immediate- 
ly, got a visa within two hours. 

Then there used to be a strange rule 
that if documentaries were to be made 
in India, whether on Punjab or the 
Andamans, the script had to be 
approved and a person had to stay 
with the crew always to see what they 
were doing. Then this would be seen 
by the high commissioner and if he 
disapproved of certain things he would 
delete them. This agreement had to be 
entered into before they went to 
India. 

I said, either we are a free country, 
an open country, or we are not. I told 
them I didn’t want this. In India, there 
are very many things — both good and 
bad. So, in a democracy if foreigners 
want to concentrate only on bad things 
their credibility will suffer. For, India 
has everything. 

Q: YouVe working on a book about 
your stint in India House. Is it going to 
be a no-holds-barred account? 

A: Yes, well, it will be a very frank, 
candid book. Certain despatches that I 
sent, certain papers that i saw as high 
commissioner, I think that the rule of 
secrecy will have to be observed. 
Maybe I will convey it in a dif)^erent 
manner altogether, in a journalistic 
manner. 

Q: When does your book come out? 

A: I have to give the manuscript by 
June 1991. Penguin is doing it. And 
then I think the book will be out in 
September. 

Q: What are your plans for the future? 

A: That’s a 64 million dollar question. 
Eventually I think I will start writing 
my column, and my work with CFD 
will continue. In fact, yesterday some 
students came to see me. They said 
they were being used by politicians 
and they wanted some guidance. Now 
I will sit with them. Maybe I can help 
in this process of stringing various stu- 
dent organisations togetl^r. 

I personally think the unity of this 
country is in peril and we must all 
work for our country. 

Q: Your days as a diplomat are over, 
though. 

A: Well, let’s say for the time being. • 


•UNOAV 30 Ow«mb*r 1090-0 January 1991 


13 



MBB— ij lVlEPIA MUSINGS p—^— ■ 

V. GANGADHAR 

Religious toierance 


But the media seem obsessed with communal violence 


The media critic's job 
has begun to sour. 
One has to drag one- 
self into opening the 
pages of newspapers 
and magazines. A 
couple of pep pills 
are needed after wading through 
accounts of communal killings, arson 
and other forms of cruelty and torture. 

There is hardly anything to read 
except accounts of killings and the 
blah-blah of politicians and religious 
zealots. The situation had never been 
so bad, even during the dark days of 
1969 — the Gandhi centenary year— 
when Gu)arat witnessed the worst 
orgy of communal killings since Parti- 
tion. Then, it was only Gujarat. To- 
day, it is everywhere. And no one 
knows — even the so-called political 
pundils —what the future holds for this 
country. 

And yet there are patches of light in 
this enveloping gloom and darkness. 
The T nies of Indians Rajdeep Sardesai 
and Sanjeev Unhale drove around 
Marathwada district in Maharashtra, a 
region which represents the greatest 
confluence of ] lindu-Muslim culture. 
They discovered, in this supposedly 
stronghold of Shiv Sena, myths cre- 
ated by politico-religious leaders in 
the temple-mosque disputes being 
shattered. 


Their report is full of heartwarming 
anecdotes. At the Chand Bodhie 
mausoleum ot Daulatabad, verses 
from the Koran and bhajans are being 
recited side by side. Some of the resi- 
dents of Bethmogra village observe 
roza during ramzan period, though 
they are not Muslims. 7'he village has 
a masjid and a mandir in the same 
complex. Hindus and Muslims pray 
together at every darffuh in Marath- 
wada, built in memory of the mystic 
Sufi saints. 

Sardesai and Unhale cite examples 
of Muslim patronage to Hindu tem- 
ples of the region. Quoting eminent 
historians, they point out that more 
than 80 per cent of the temples were 
built in Aurangabad city alone during 
the reign of Aurangzeb, generally re- 
garded as the most fundamentalist 
among the Mughul rulers. Why, he 
even gave a dan-patra (gift deed) to 
the Jalna Ganesh temple! 

It was not a one-sided process. The 
report mentions that documents pro- 
duced by local historians prove that 
Chatrapati Shahu, grandson of Shivaji 
Maharaj, donated a huge grant to the 
samadhi of Aurangzeb at Khultabad 
despite the fact that his father Sham- 
baji was killed by the Mughul emper- 
or. At one dargah, classical music has 
been sung for several centuries. 
Brahmin priests look after another 


dargah and frequently lunch with 
Muslim maulvis. 

There must be several regions in the 
country where such harmony can still 
be found. The press should make a 
concentrated effort to highlight these. 

Pawar’s PR 

Turning 50 seems to be a milestone 
in the life of a politican. Particularly if 
that politician happens to be Sharad 
Pawar. Every magazine and newspap- 
er I went through during the last fort- 
night had something ‘exclusive’ on the 
charismatic chief minister, despite his 
well-publicised ‘reluctance’ to have a 
gaudy birthday bash. Pawar had been 
interviewed at home, at his office, at 
the Legislative Assembly premises 
and even on board an aircraft. 

It is obvious that the journalists who 
interviewed Pawar relied heavily on 
material supplied by the state PR de- 
partment. Most of the write-ups read 
the same. We are told about his long 
hours of work (6 am to 2.30 am), 
tendency to hobnob with the Opposi- 
tion, literary pursuits which included 
listening to dalit poets till late into the 
nights, interest in wrestling and so on. 
Well, the write-ups even reproduced 
the same practical jokes, Pawar re- 
portedly played on his friends as well 
as political opponents! 


One has to drag 
oneself into opening 
the pages of 
newspapers and 
magazines. A couple 
of pep pills are 
needed after wading 
through accounts of 
communal killings, 
arson and other 
forms of cruelty and 
torture. 


14 








An AmBiani mole? 



Every magazine and 
newspaper for the 
last fortnight had 
something ‘exclusive’ 
on Shared Pawar, 
despite his 
well-publicised 
‘reluctance’ to have a 
gaudy birthday bash 


For several months, The Illustrated 
Weekly of India has been promoting 
former journalist and Janata Dal MP, 
Santosh Bharatiya. In a recent issue, 
while discussing what went wrong with 
V.P. Singh's government, Bharatiya 
makes some provocative comments. 

According to the Dal MP, who was 
once regarded very close to Singh, 
industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani, who 
has a strong desire to control Indian 
politics, was hostile to V.P. Singh. 
“Suddenly one day news came that a 
journalist who had been drawing a fat 
salary from Dhirubhai's future news- 
paper had become the Prime Minis- 
ter's press adviser. The result of this 
move was that the bureaucracy felt 
that if Dhirubhai was so powerful that 
he could place his man in the Prime 
Minister’s house in a position so close 
to the PM, it would be better to stay 
loyal to him." Bharatiya goes on that 
it was at this stage the bureaucracy 
began disobeying Singh's orders and 
journalists loyal to him ranged against 
him. Major economic and political de- 
cisions were leaked out to the Ambani 


camp. “The decision to raise the prices 
of all petroleum products was 
announced by the finance ministry on 
Monday mornirig but Dhirubhai 
Ambani’s newspaper. The Sunday 
Observer, published the news a day 
earlier''. 

Is Bharatiya suggesting that the for- 
mer PM’s press adviser, Prem Shankar 
Jha, was an Ambani mole? I hope Jha 
reacts to this charge. 

Singing the unsung 

When not writing about the mean, 
bad West gnd its machinations in the 


developing nations, P. Sainalh, the 
energetic and scholarly deputy editor 
of Witz, can be found attending and 
presenting readable papers at media 
conferences in far-flung places like 
Budapest and Prague. 

Sainath, obviously, is a man of infi- 
nite variety. He has done away with 
the pin-ups which used to adorn the 
last page of Blitz. And recently, leav- 
ing aside his favourite themes, he pro- 
duced an outstanding piece on the 
“vibrant culture of Bombay’s train 
musicians who capitvate commuters 


on the two suburban rail systems and 
give a whole new meaning to the 
word, ‘music tracks’”. 

One of the minstrels, Vasu, is from 
Tamil Nadu and he uses a ‘unique’ 
violin. The stalk is covered with a pipe 
and the string appears to be a scooter 
gear cable. His ‘bow’, is apparently a 
thin pipe tightly wound in plastic 
string and edged with some unidentifi- 
able material. At the tip of this bow, 
are remnants of a dancer’s anklet, pro- 
ducing a unique rhythm as he coaxes 
the violin. Yehudi Menhuin, please 
note! 

Train singers like Vasu or Veeriah, 


a blind man from Andhra Pradesh, 
sing melodies from the great musicals 
of the 1950s and 1960s and the audi- 
ence listen enchanted. 

While on the subject of Blitz, a big 
saahash to their cartoonist Suresh 
Sawant for his splendid Christmas car- 
toon in the issue dated 22 December. 
Very biting and very topical! 

Daring diplomat 

Senior bureaucrats, once they re- 
tire, wait for sometime before going to 
the press with their views and observa- 
tions. Former principal secretary to 
the Prime Minister, B.G. Deshmukh, 
however has spoken too soon and The 
Economic Times is to be congratu- 
lated on a scoop. 

Deshmukh, surprisingly, is very 
outspoken. Among his achievmenLs', 
was the safeguarding the interests of 
several senior officers who felt 
threatened when V.P. Singh (Jame to 
power. T.N. Seshan, Gopi Arora, 
Sam Pitroda, Hasmukh Shah of the 
IPCL and several others came troop- 
ing in, seeking protection. And they 
got it! Even while working for V.P. 
Singh, Deshmukh never hid the fact 
that he was friendly with the Hindu- 
jas. While returning from a foreign 
trip, Deshmukh decided to call on the 
Hindujas, whom he had known since 
1972 and informed the then Prime 
Minister about it. That's quite daring 
for a bureaucrat one would say! 

The former senior bureaucrat open- 
ly admits his fondness for Rajiv Gan- 
dhi. Asked about his political lean- 
ings, Deshmukh says, “Ours has tradi- 
tionally been a Congress family, be- 
ginning with my father, who lost his 
job in 1930 for wearing khadi." In- 
teresting, outspoken and controversial 
views. Can we see them sopn in the 

form of a book? • i 

& 


A big saabash to 
the SZ/Yz cartoonist, 
Suresh Sawant, for 
his splendid 

Christmas 
cartoon in the 
issue dated 22 
December— very 
biting and very 
topical! 



SUNDAY 30 December 1BOO— S January 1091 


15 



MANI-TALK 


MANI SHANKAR AIYAR 

Moon over Punjab 

Is it dawn or twilight over that troubled state? 



I Hid Cidici- 
<il () P Malfinira 
()nl\ niKc It vviis 
the muhl ()1 the 
r il - 4 t h April, 
197*;. He was 
transiting through 
Karachi airport 
and It tell to niv 
good fortune, as 
India's consul 


general in the city to while an hour 
away with him in the distinguished 
visitors’ lounge. I w'as more than a 
little annoyed that the Pakistanis had 
done us the discourtesy of sending 
only the sect)nd-in-command ol then 
Sind militaiv establishment to receive 


our Chief ol Army Staff. I discovered 
the reason next morning It was not 
discourtesy. It was )ust that Number 
One had been preoccupied the pre- 
vious evening hanging Zulfiqar Ali 
Bhutto . 


Gen. Malhotra has just been sworn ' 
in as our fourth Cioveinor ol l^iniab in 
12 months. I beat him by a da>'on his 
ritual fust visit as GoNernoi to Amrit- 
sar. For, coincidentally, I had agreed a 
while ago to leatl a peace march, orga- 
nised by the local branch of our Socie- 
ty for Secularism, through the narrow , 
winding lanes that ring the Ciolden 
Temple - 

We marched for two hours, a snaky 
procession half-a-mile long, passing 
through locality after locality that had 
earned its footnote in history as the 
site of a bomb blast, the scene of an 
explosion, the gruesome setting for a 
cold-blooded assassination. Fa cry 50 
yards or so, shopkeepers would .stop 
us to bedeck our necks with garlands 
of roses, chameli and marigold. At the 
dozens of minuscule gumdwaras that 
dot the narrow lanes, we w'crc hon- 
oured with san'pas and ceremonial 
shawls. From balconies and lenement 
windows, flower petals were showered 
upon our heads. Our greetings and 
namascars were invariably returned 
with affectionate smiles of welcome 
and folded hands The crowds along 
the route appeared to respond with 
heart-warming generosity to our slo- 


gans which rent the air: 

Hindusthan ke chaar sipa/ii 
Hindu, Mustun, Sikh, hai! 

Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jsai 
Aapas man ham hhai hhui' 

Na Hindu Rash it a 

Na Kh ah St an 

Yah rahega Hnidusthan' 

It look a pinch of courage — and a 
forest of security rifles — to see us 
through It all safely. 

Yes, peace is possible in Punjab. 


see that you cannot purchewe peace by 
surrendering to bullies. Or that it is 
not good chits from Amnesty Interna- 
tional — or our homegrown bleeding 
hearts —but decisive action on the 
ground to drive back, corner and ren- 
der hors de combat those who under- 
stand only the power of the barrel that 
can set the stage for a political process 
leading to peace. 

W e have shown elsewhere that this 
can be done. For instance, in 



insensate murder and mindless violence, of treachery, secession and the 


explosive mixture of religion with politics 


But, yes, too, there is a reality of 
terror and extortion, of insensate mur- 
der and mindless violence, of 
treachciy, secession and the explosive 
mixture of religion with politics 

Cicncral Malhotra has his work cut 
out for him. He can — and must — work 
towards peace in Punjab. And he has 
it in him (and in the policies his gov- 
ernment is asking him to implement) 
the palpable possibility of taking Pun- 
jab closer — much clo.ser — to that goal. 
But only it he recognises the reality of 
teiror, terrorists and terrorism. 

His two immediate predecessors — 
V'irendra Varma and Nirmal Mukarji 
(shame on you for having forgotten 
them already!)"- never even began to 


ending the Laldenga insurgency in 
Mizoram that lasted all of two de- 
cades. At one time, the whole of that 
lovely state was little better than a 
fortified encampment. The rebels re- 
ceived the utmost encouragement 
(and assistance) from neighbouring 
East Pakistan and sanctuaries in the 
Chittagong Hill Tracts long after East 
Pakistan became Bangladesh. But 
there was never any let-up in the re- 
lentless pressure on the insurgents, 
even as numerous lines of communica- 
tion were kept open to Laldenga and 
his colleagues — mostly covert and 
operated by our intelligence agencies, 
but also, from time to time, raised to 
the political level. Meanwhile, every 


16 


SUNDAY 30 Decomber 1990— 5 Jenuary 1991 




effort was made to woo back an alicti- 
ated people, persuading them that our 
secularism ottered every opportunity 
for safeguarding the identity of an 
ethnic (and religious) minority, even 
m as that minority evolved into an in- 
separable strand of our composite cul- 
ture. 

It all led eventually to the Accord of 
June 1986. To give I.aldenga and his 
insurgents the confidence that their 
support among the people would be 
fairly tested, the C ongress chief minis- 
ter, Lalthanhawla, voluntarily stepped 
down to become deputy to the very 
insurgent against whom — at great risk 
to his life--he had struggled through- 
out his political career. Laldenga, as 
chief minister, led his paity to a con- 
vincing — if thin — majoiity in the elec- 
tions of February 1987 Strains within 
his government de\elopeil later, re- 


For, remember, Laldcnga’s men 
were no less brutal than Zaffarwal’s 
gun-toters or any of the other terrorist 
outfits in Punjab. And Laldenga’s 
men were quite as brutal with the 
Mizos whose cause they claimed to be 
championing as the outfits in Punjab 
are with those whom they say they are 
protecting. As with the number of 
Mizos killed by the “liberators" ol 
Mizoram, the number of Sikhs killed 
in terrorist outrages in Punjab con- 
siderably exceeds the body count of 
the victims of other communities And 
Laldenga’s language was no less ex- 
treme — and quite as irrational and dis- 
joined- as anything Simranjeet Singh 
M an n-f Sword has to say. 

But there was no nonsense — and no 
pussyfooting — about putting down 
violence in Mizoram Our Prime 
Ministers did not go riding around in 


with Punjab!), The kid gloves of the 
avuncular Nirmal Mukarji did nothing 
to unmail the iron fist of the Khalisiani 
“militants". And Virendra Varma's 
“apology" for Operation Bluestar has 
resulted only in the further spread of 
the red stain of “militancy” — right 
across every district of the slate till it 
laps at the tables of leader-writers in 
newspaper offices: every editor in 
Punjab has been warnec< that if he 
dares say “terrorist” for “militant”, he 
will be gunned down without further 
ado. 

T he day 1 visited Amritsar, the 
army had just been deployed in 
the villages along the Pak-Punjab bor- 
der. The result was electric. For the 
first time in a year, the average citizen 
has got the feeling that the Govern- 
ment of India might indeed be serious 



Insurgency made way for democracy in Mizoram after two decades. Laldenga’s language was no less extreme 
than anything Simranjeet Mann - f S word has to say. If it could be done in Mizoram, there is no reason 
why it cannot be done in Punjab 


suiting in its collapse But Laldenga’s 
faith in democracy did not collapse. 
He fought anotfier election in January 
1989 — and lost, but, with honour, 
took his place at the head of the 
Opposition benches. There was not 
the least thought of sliding back into 
insurgency. There was no more than 
the usual whinnying about electoral 
malpractice at the margin. 

When Laldenga suddenly died a few 
months ago, Lalthanhawla was among 
the mourning pall-bearers. That is 
what the conversion of armed terror 
into democratic decencies is all about. 
• If it could be done in Mizoram, there 
is no reason why it cannot be done in 
Punjab. 


open jeeps from Zuneboto to Aizawl. 
()ur Governors did not go around re- 
leasing hordes of common criminals, 
doubling as terrorists, to the polite 
patter of applause from genteel lunch- 
time gatherings at the India Interna- 
tional Centre. Our heads of state in 
Aizawl did not substitute apology for 
policy. 

In Mizoram — unlike in Punjab dur- 
ing the 11-month disaster of V.P. 
Singh's antics — there was a clear rec- 
ognition that every terrorist action is 
an excess whereas it is only the aber- 
rant police action that is an outrage. 
The aberrant was never confused with 
the norm (just as no one should con- 
fuse Kuldip Nayar's Punjab Group 


about resuming Indian sovereignty 
over the three border districts of Pun- 
jab. It is not empty promises of 
pafiayaffas but hard action on the 
ground that will carry conviction. If 
Siddhartha Shankar Ray could virtual- 
ly free every district of Punjab from 
Ropar to F’aridkot and Hoshiarpur to 
Patiala (that is, nine of Punjab's 12 
districts) of terrorism, there is no 
reason, in principle, why Gen. 
Malhotra might not succeed in restor- 
ing Gurdaspur, Amritsar and 
Ferozepur too to Indian authority. 

Yes, it will be a long haul. And, yes, 
there will be setbacks along the way. 
And, yes, Pakistan is only yards away 
across the thin strip of No Man’s 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990— 5 January 1991 


17 




MANi-TALK 



SIddhartha Shankar Ray NIrmal Mukarji did nothing Virendra Varma's General O.P. Mlalhotra 

could tree virtually every to unmail the iron tist of the ‘apology’ for Operation has his work cut out for 
district of Punjab Khalistani ‘militants' Bluestar has resulted only him. He can — and 

j of terrorism in the further spread of the must — work towards peace 

I red stain of ‘militancy’ in Punjab 

Land. But if Mon and Tuensang and not foreseen the advent of a Prime of purpose and direction that Weepy 

Phek in Nagaland, and vast tracts of Minister who would refuse permission never quite succeeded in extracting 

Manipur, and the tribi^l redoubts of to the (iovernor to arrest the All-India from his tear-ducts. The political pro- 

Tripura, and even the Gorkhaland of Sikh Students’ Federation leader who cess is being seen as the only durable 

the Darjeeling Hills can be restored to was raising again the silenced slogan path to peace — and the load to the 

India — as the Rajiv regime demons- of Khalistan. It had not measured the political process as necessitating the 

trated they can — then there is no consequences of a government in De- sweeping of the minefields laid by the 

reason in logic why alienated segments Ihi that prided itself on the virtue of militants. And Amarinder Singh has 

of the land— and alienated segments having no policy at all on Punjab. It shown unusual courage, intelligence 

of the people — in Punjab cannot be has not worked out what would hap- and wisdom in indicating a tunnel 

brought back into the Indian embrace. pen if statesmanship were reduced to through which the squabbling Akalis 

Of course, stern action against ter- tomfoolery of driving through the might yet escape from the minatory 
rorism/“m itancy’Vwhatever-you- streets of the capital city of mendacity of the “militants", the 

may-call-it (napalm by any name terrorism. It had not anticipated the booby-traps laid by Dr Sohan Singh 

smells as acrid) has to be not an end in holding of "all-party” round-tables and his Panthic Committee the befud- 

itself but directed at a larger purpose * would not be attended even by died mcanderings of Prukash Singh 

The larger purpose must be the res- factions of the Akali Dal that had Badal, the artful dodgery of G.S. 

toration of the political process in snatched victory at the recent polls. Tohra and even the gourmet tempta- 

Punjab as swiftly as might prove possi- copjured up in its tions of the Punjab group! Is thetc a 

ble. A settlement cannot be made breakinP over Puniab’ 

over the heads of the people or Mann would be conspicuous by I remember a very early morning 

under the table, far from their eyes It absence of both his Wwar and his start during an election campaign 

has to be made with the involvement No one had reckoned with a when we had stopped at Saiha, the 

of the people and with their full parti- Governor whose indulgence towards scene of some of the bloodiest fighting 
cipation. In short, democracy in Pun- L"® excesses ol “militants" (see. I’m during the Laldcnga insurgency in 

jab calls for elections in Punjab but careful too) would be matched Mi/oram. Across the eastern rim of 

elections that will t?ive a free and fair steiiiness lowaids the “ex- the serrated mountains surrounding 

result. ‘ cesses" of the police (sec. I’m being us, the first indications could be glimp- 

Back in November lt^89, Siddhartha tO(;!).No onc--no one at all, sed of a new morn awakening. But 

Shankar Ray had succeeded in creat- convinced, even Virendra hanging over Saiha was still a full 

ing conditions in which in some-if him.self^vcr imagined that round moon, yellow turning to 

not all— of the parliamentary consti- : wokM find in Varmaji the orange. It was both night and day, and 

tucncies, the broad trend of voting, if instrument with which to simul- an end and a beginning, a twilight and 
not the vote in every booth, did reflect t^ne^usly appease both the militants a dawn, with us suspended in eerie 
the general mood of genuine public is child’s play) as well as loneliness above a valley covered in 

opinion. It had been the intention of appease the Tau (which is not!). clouds that lay hundreds of metres 

the Congress government to follow up "^Thal is all behind us now. Gen. our feel. UNI correspondent, 

the Lok Sabha elections with Assem- ■ Malhotra has begun his innings by J^hn Cclestine, and 1 decided there 
bly polls, along w'ith other states, in showing that he is ready to confront and then that wc d like to jointly write 
February 1990 and panchayat/munki- the militants. The Prime Minister has ^ novel: Moon Over Saiha. There is 
pality elections soon thereafter. begun his innings by sensibly opening ^ moon over Punjab even as a 

The Congress had not reckoned, lines of communication to the Pak distant dawn breaks over a far-away 

however, w'ith the outcome of its shift- Prime Mini.ster. Discussions among all horizon. Happy New Year! • 

ing, after the November '89 elections, parlies, convened by the new govern- 
V to the otlHip^tde of the House. It had menl, have been informed by a sense statement of the Co^ss party's position.) 

18 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990—5 January 1991 





Armed policemen on duty in Kohima: 24-hour vigil against the NSCN 


Age of uncertainty 


While mainstream politicians indulge in skullduggery, the 
Naga National Council tries to unite 


T here are no enduimg godfathers in politics. And 
no one believes this more than the scheming 
legislators of the Nagaland Assembly. In the 
seven months since May, this hill state of barely 
eight lakh people has seen the change of two 
ministries, and if the latest round of intrigues are anything 
to go by, a third change may be effected well before the 
year end. 

The present round of crisis involves chief minister 
Vamuzo and his Nagaland People’s Council (NPC) gov- 
ernment which was reduced to a minority in the 60- 
member House on 14 December after 12 NPC rebels 
withdrew support to the ruling regime, reducing its 
strength to 23. The NPC chief, Vizol, countered the move 
in a typical way. He expelled two of the rebels from the 
party and Speaker Thenucho disqualified the remaining 
ten. Moreover, Thenucho also revoked the membership of 
five Congress(I) MLAs on the ground that they had res- 
igned from the party. This reduced the member-ship of the 
House to 45. On 18 December, the Assembly met for the 


crucial winter session, but the Opposition stayed off in 
protest. The Congress(I) accused the Speaker of flouting 
all constitutional norms, besides alleging that the resigna- 
tion letters of the five Congress(I) legislators had been 
forged. Thus, with jast 4:'^ members in the House, Vamuzo 
managed to survive miraculously, as all the remaining 23 
NPC members voted in his favour. The government, 
however, hangs by a slender margin of one, and Vamuzo’s 
troubles may not be over. 

The genesis of the crisis traces back to the fall of the 
Congrcss(l) government, headed by S.C. Jamir, in May. 
Till then, the Congress enjoyed an absolute majority in the 
House with 35 members while the Opposition NPC had 
25. But 12 dissident MLAs broke away from the Congres- 
s(I) and decided to join the NPC. To foil their move, the 
Congress(I) expelled two of them and the former Speaker, 
N.T. Ngullie, disqualified the remaining ten under the 
anti-defection law. 

Jamir then wanted to prove his majority in the House, 
but the governor dismissed the government and invited 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990—6 January 1991 


19 






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NEWSWATCH 


K.L.Chishi, who was then the leader of the NPC Legisla- 
ture Party, to form a new ministry ,giving him a month’s 
time to prove his majority. The Congress dissidents, on 
their part, formed a new bloc, calling themselves the 
Congress (Regional), and decided to back the NPC. 

But that was only the beginning of a more complex 
phase in the numbers game. Jamir, reputed to be a shrewd 
politician, sent feelers to Vamuzo, a senior NPC leader 
who had always nursed ambitions of becoming the chief 
minister. At that time Vamuzo was not even an MLA, but 
the Congress (I) promised to prop him up if only he was 
willing to form a coalition government. And Vamuzo 
oblig^.He succeeded in talking 17 of his party MLAs into 
the arrangement. Chishi was promptly replaced, and 
Vamuzo formed the Joint Legislature Party (JLP) ministry 
in July with 14 ministers from the NPC and an equal 
number from the Congress(I). The coalition was a success, 
but pnly till November. 

Vamuzo had, in the meantime, got himself elected 
unopposed in a by-election and was out to consolidate his 
position. One move that he thought would fortify him 
against Jamir’s future machinations was to get the Con- 
gress(R) dissidents into the NPC. On the face of it, the 
strategy was fool-proof. With the 12 Congress(R) mem- 
bers joining his pa^, Vamuzo hoped to assert himself and 
dump the Congress(I), if necessary. Thenucho, the new 
Speaker, clear^ the deck for Vamuzo by revoking his 
predecessor’s ruling disqualifying the 10 Congress dissi- 
dents, who, along with the two expellqd Congress(I) 
MLAs, were now free to join the ruling party. 

To the Congres$(I), this amounted to a breach of faith, 
and the coalition fell apart after a heated exchange of 
words between Jamir and Vamuzo in the chief minister’s 
office on 29 November. Deputy chief minister I.K. Serna 
of the Congress(I) resigned the following day and sports 
minister L. Hikeye Serna did likewise. By 4 December, all 
the 14 Congress(I) ministers quit the JLP ministry, making 
the government an all-NPC affair. But Vamuzo was not 
perturbed. ‘^We have 35 members and my ministry is 
under no threat,” he told Sunday on 13 December. On 
the very next day, however, he was struggling for survival 
as his strengh abruptly dwindled to 23. In a surprise move, 
12 of his own partymen rebelled against him, banded 
together under a new banner called NPC (Original), and 
resolved to support the Congress(l). Qearly the tables had 
been turned against him but Vamuzo continued to present 
a brave face. “I am not resigning. I will prove my strength 
on the floor of the house.” said the cav^er chief minister 
on the 15 December. And he survived. 

C uriously, it is twelve instead of thirteen that is proving 
to be the unlucky number in Nagaland politics and the 
defections seem endemic. The breakaway NPC(O) mem- 
bers issued a statement in Kohima, citing ‘‘id^logical” 
reasons for the split. But Vamuzo feels that they were 
bought over by Jamir. ‘‘Each MLA was offered Rs 15 
lakhs,” he told Sunday. Others feel that it was Vamuzo’s 
failure to distribute portfolios — although he had 
announced the names of the new NPC ministers — that led 
to the rebellion. Explained a senior Congress(l) leader: 
“Every politician in Nagaland wants to berame a minister 
and will join the side where the prospects are the bright- 
est.” And an ashtonishing record vin&cates his assertion: 
-m the last two years, 58 of the 60 MLAs have served as 
ministers for varying durations ii| the successive ministries. 
While hankering for power may have been the real 




NEWSWATCH 


The new messiah 


Khodao Yanthan promises to take 
the struggle to the bitter end 

441 have come to solve the Naga political problem in 
I a peaceful way as any civilised people would do. If 
India wants war, it would be her problem,*' says Kho- 
dao Yanthan, 68, president, Naga National Council 
(NNC). Khodao is tall, lanky, spat;ts a little goatee and 
is committed to securing independence for his people. 

Khodao returned to Nagaland from his London exile 
in July this year, following A.Z. Phizo's death in April. 
In September, he formally took charge of the party — 
although he was elected its president in July — and thus 
stepped into Phizo’s shoes. Khodao knows he is don- 
ning a mantle that means much to the Nagas. For over 
forty years Phizo had fired their imagination by promis- 
ing to create sovereign state, and it is Khodao’s turn 
now to keep the aspirations alive. But the new NNC 
chief, who had slipped into the underground insurgent 


demand for sovereignty. 

But Khodao is not interested in going along a beaten 
track. ‘‘The solution must be arrived at peacefully. We 
want to avoid the savage^ of the past, and I believe the 
Government of India is also more matured this 
time,'* hopes Khodao. The NNC, he assures, has an 
open mind and is ready to forget the misunderstandings 
of the past. “Unlike Phizo, we are prepared to & 
flexible,** he says. He proposes a “commonwealth sort 
of an arrangement*' and advocates “fnendly coexist- 
ence between India and Nagaland**. “We will cooperate 
with India in economic matters, communication and 
would even like joint border defence. But we will have 
our own foreign policy.” 

Khodao knows he must first put his house in order 
before he can hope to bring the Union government to 
the negotiating table. And for that he is trying to unite 
the disparate forces that stand for sovereignty. “We 
have already established contact with the NSCN. We 
hope to begin a dialogue soon. Muivah and Isac Swu 
must come back to their original party,** he feels. The 
banning of the NSCN does not worry Khodao. “It has 
no significance for us. If the NSCN merges with the 







Khodao Yanthan (left), now living in Wokha town (above), 
promises a flexible approach in his future dealings with 
the Centre. But sovereignty remains his ultimate goal 


NNC, we will be a stronger* force and high-handed 

measures will not work.” 

But will Khodao have the time to accomplish his 
mission? He is a British citizen, his visa for six months 
is about to expire, and there is no guarantee that it will 
be extended. But Khodao is optimistic. “This is my 
country. I was compelled to become a British citizen 
because of political reasons. The Government of India 
knows this. But if they throw me out, I can still come 
back — through Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh.” 

Khodao does not expect a quick breakthrough, and is 
prepared for a long struggle. “Nagas are a patient 
people. We have waited for 42 years, and are prepared 
to wait for many more. But the Government of India 
must realise that deep down in their hearts Nagas don't 
consider themselves Indians.” Khodao is confident that 
they will be able to overcome all hurdles. After all, 
momentous changes are taking place everywhere, and 
Nagaland is not out of this world. 


22 


SUNDAY 30 Dacembar 1890->^ January 1991 









NEWSWATCH 


reason behind the shifting allegiance of the legislators, 
Vamuzo’s problems were compounded by the Centre’s 
decision to ban the National Socialist Council of Nagaland 
(NSCN), an underground organisation fighting for an 
independent state. The NSCN maintains close links with 
the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), another 
secessionist outfit against which army operations were 
initiated on 27 November, and the Centre’s action was 
clearly aimed at ending the liaison between the two 
groups. 

But the banning order made the state’s overground 
politics even murkier. Jamir and Vamuzo accused each 
other of influencing the Centre’s decision as they tried to 
discredit one another. The fact about Nagaland politics is 
that no party in the state can hope to survive by openly 
opposing those advocating independence, and the banning 
of the NSCN embarrassed both the NPC and the Congres- 
s(I). Vamuzo blamed his opponents,saying that the order 
was issued at Jamir’s behest, and the Congress(I) accused 
Vamuzo of conniving with the Centre. And, in the end, it 
was Vamuzo who seemed to have lost out. “Even his own 
partymen suspect him 
now, and that was one bv 
reason behind the NPC 
split," said Rainbow 
vice-president 
Pradesh 
Committee. 
the 

vehemently: 

orga- 
Centre's 
They never 
though 

they 

The of 

the politi- 

seriously 
the credi- 
parliamentary 
the state, 

The the 

past seven months have 

made the people cynic- K C igpil''' fj f 'nBBM 

al. “No politician cares ‘ 

for the Nagas. They are obsessed with money," lamented a 
government official in the state secretariat, who seemed to 
express the view prevailing in all sections of Naga society. 

And this popular disaffection could be effectively util- 
ised by those who stand for sovereignty, the ban on the 
NSCN notwithstanding. The Naga National Council 
(NNC), of which A.Z. Phizo was the president till he died 
in April this year, is being earnestly revamped. Khodao 
Yanthan, the senior-most NNC leader and one of Phizo’s 
trusted lieutenants, has come back to Nagaland after 34 
years from London and has taken charge of the NNC. 

During Phizo’s funeral, the popularity of the legendary 
leader and the unfluence still wielded by the NNC were 
there for all to see. As thousands of mourners from all 
parts of Nagaland filed past Phizo’s body, prominent 
Nagas reaffirmed their commitment to striving for inde- 
pendence. Says a Kohima journalist: “The people 
mourned Phizo for 12 days, the NNC flag flew all over the 
state and the government went into hiding.” 

F or a long time, the NNC had been a divided house. A 
section of the party's leadership had stunned the rank 


y 




f/c,n[ For I 



JtomirifMI 

Wnmiio(«bov^ 

■rtwiga^fnan 

acriHMMrioiM 

MttteforpcMMW, 

wMleapoalttr 

(Itll^wdiortettii 

uiMtorgipiifi^ 

fOfvW ID wlllv. 

AfidTIitaoMiile 
/hftlfWtt ■iaiinm 
thrtu|rit|riiNw«t 
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SUNDAY 30 OecemtMr 1 NO— 5 January 1 9B1 


Continued on page 26 








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Phizo’s funeral was an 
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the people mourned his 
death and the NNC flag 
flew all over Nagaland 


NEWSWATCH 


Continued from page 23 

and file by signing the 
Shillong accord in 1975 
and accepting the Indian 
Constitution. This trig- 
gered a split in the orga- 
nisation with general 
secretary Muivah and 
Isac Swu walking out 
and forming the NSCN. 

But the process of disin- 
tegration has lately been 
reversed and the present 
trend is for unity. The 
reconstituted NNC has 
rejeccted the Shillong 
accord and is eager to 
mend fences with the 
NSCN. In fact, Muivah 
has been renamed the 
general secretary of rhe 
party, as he had left it 
without actually res- 
igning. “Significantly,” 
says Thinoselic, a for- 
mer general of the Naga 
Federal Army and an 
executive member of the 
NNC, “Muivah has 
neither accepted the position, nor has he rejected it.” 

With the unity moves on between the NNC and the 
insurgents, the mainstream political parties are wary ot 
proceeding against the NSCN. Vamu/o sent his supplies 
minister to Delhi to request Prime Minister Chandra 
Shekhar to review the decision and .Jamii told Si no as 
that he would like to wait and see. Immediately after it was 
outlawed, the NSC'N mounted a daring attack in Khonoma 
village, about 25 km from Kohima town, killing three 
members of the Nagaland Armed Police and escaped with 
a large cache ot arms and amunition. On 11 December, 
S.C.Dev, chairman of the Nagaland pav commission was 
shot at m his Kohima office by unidentified gunmen and 
narrowly escaped death. Though lound-the-clock patroll- 
ing by armed policemen has been introduced in the state 
capital, police headquaters sources say th.it ihev have not 
yet received an\ clear directive from the government to 
begin tullscale operations against the insurgents \\amuzo 
was cautious in spelling out his plans regarding the NSCN. 
’if they go on killing innocent people, I will have to act. 
My )ob is to maintain law' and order, but I wouldn’t like to 
do anything that will create more problems." 

But both the NPC and the C'ongress(I) appear to have 
forefeited the people's goodwill because of their opportun- 
ism, and the political vacuum may well be filled by the 
NNC which is serously trying to bring the NSCN back into 
its fold. Few Nagas are ready to treat the NSCN and the 
ULFA on a par, saying that the issues they espouse are 
different, and look forward to the merger of the two 
parties and the "final" solution to the Naga problem, now 
over 40 years old. "Seventy five per cent of the people are 
with them," confided a Congress(I) leader. .And if a free 
referendum were to held now, those swearing by sover- 
ignty would win.'says a Naga intellectual. 

So it is the NNC and the NSCN that hold the key to the 
future of Nagaland and the men to be watched are Khodao 
and Muivah.® 

Anfsh Gupta/Kohima and Wokha 


SUNDAY 30 DecemDor 1<I90- 5 January 1991 




GOSSIP SWEET AND SOUR 


KHUSHWANT SINGH 


What’s in a name? 



She spells it Maneka 
but pronounces it as 
Menaka. The first I 
thought had no 
meaning; the second 
is the name of a 
nymph, apsara, the 
favourite of God Indra. Her charms 
were so irresistible that Indra sent her 
down to seduce Vishwamitra. The 
sage fell to her seduciion, married and 
impregnated her. She was lost to 
Indra. 

Now 1 discover that Maneka also 
has a meaning and is in common use as 


a name. A member of the Pakistan 
National Assembly is Ghulam Ahmed 
Maneka. In his case, Maneka stands 


for a precious stone— the same as in 
the name of our retired Field Marshal 
Sam Maneckshaw. Another variation 
of Maneka is the Punjabi variant 
rnanka which means a bead. So, our 
Maneka Gandhi pronounced Menaka 
Gandhi could be the divine apsam, a 
precious stone or a bead in a necklace. 

All this information I picked up 
from a piece written by Khalid 
Ahmed, a regular contributor to a 
modest-circulation English paper of 
Pakistan called Frontier Post. Khalid 
Ahmed refers to many tribal names 
which are shared between India and 
Pakistan: Randhawa (from ran tor 
battlefield and dhawa meaning 
attack), Bajwa, Bhinder, Mann, Gill, 
Sandhu, Siddhu and many others of 
the Punjabi-Jat peasantry on either 
side of the border. According to him, 
Kuldip Nayar takes his second name 
from Nair, a Pakistani tribe and 
should be pronounced as Nayyar. He 
doesn’t say anything about the Nairs 
of Kerala. 

Khalid Ahmed was in Delhi last 
week to explore the possibility of 
finding outlets for his columns in 
English newspapers published in India 
and to get a publisher for a collection 
of articles he has written for Frontier 
Post. He is a powerfully built, bearded 
Punjabi Pathan of enormous erudition 
in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Latin, 
English and Urdu. He has made the 
origin and development of words in 
our region his speciality. What 
Saphire specialises in for American 
papers, Khalid Ahmed does for the 

•UNOAY 30 D&cmpbm 19e0-« Januwy 1901 


subcontinent. Only Khalid makes bet- 
ter reading. Among the many words 
he has written on, is the origin of the 
name Pakistan and the word Urdu. 

It was taken for granted that the 
word Pakistan had been coined by 
Chaudhri Rehmat Ali in 1931, when 
he was a student in Cambridge Uni- 
versity. Since the Chaudhri bad- 
mouthed Oaid-e-Azam Mohammad 
Ali Jinnah, his name was deleted from 
the list of founding fathers and credit 
for coining the name passed on to the 
poet Allama Iqbal. Neither of them 
fully explained the acronym standing 
for Punjab, Afghanistan (really the 
NWFP), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchis- 
tan. 'I’he omission of Bengal which 
was an integral part of the Pakistani 
scheme is hard to explain. And when 
did the ‘i’ come into Pakistan? 
Rehmat Ali had called it Pakistan and 
it appeared as such in the .Muslim 
League resolution passed in Lahore. 

Khalid Ahmed has yet another sug- 
gestion Based on Azim Hussain's 
biography of his father, Mian Sir Fazle 
Hussain, he mentions another 
claimant to the coinage of the name 
'Pakistan', Khwaja Abdiir Rahim. 
The gentleman noticed that one of the 
Soviet Muslim republics was named 
Karakalpakistan. Karakalpaks are a 
Turkish sub-nationality inhabiting the 
Uzbekistan region along the Amu 
Darya. Originally, they also did not 



KhaHdACiRMtfi** 
manoiFeiioniioiii 
erudV^ln Sanii^ 
Arabic, Peraian, Latin, 
EngHsh and Urdii. Oiia 
wtabedthal Indteliini. 
a peraonof the ailiia 


have an ‘i’ in the name of their 
republic and it was known as Karakal- 
pakistan. Apparently, the ‘i' was in- 
serted to make the name sound better. 

And now Urdu. All text books tell 
us that the word comes from Turkish 
for camp as Urdu evolved out of the 
language spoken by Tiirki invaders 
and Prakrit spoken by the locals. Dr 
Farman Fatehpuri demurs. Urdu, he 
says, derives Ardeo {ard for the heart 
and dao for trick). It is therefore, a 
language which steals one's heart. Ard 
is the same as the Sanskrit — Hindi 
hrriday, the English heart, the Ger- 
man herz. Khalid Ahmed adds a 
theory of his own. Turks, he says, 
took a lot of words from the Mongols. 
The Turkish military encampment 
(Urdu) is derived from the Mongol 
orda. The Russians who were ruled 
over by the Mongols for several 
centuries, later called their adminis- 
trative centres in Central Asia Zo/r;- 
taya Orda from which the English 
Golden Horde is derived And so on. 

I wish we had a Khalid Ahmed 
writing, similarly researched, and in- 
teresting stuff on Indian topics. 


Inter>caste marriage 

There was a bachelor mosquito. All 
his friends had wives except him. 
“Why don't you get marned?" they 
asked him. ‘i can't find a suitable 
match,” he replied. “Put in an ad in 
the matrimonial columns of The 
Hindustan Times," they advised him, 
“And surely you’ll find a wife. Every- 
one reads their matrimonials.” 

The bachelor mosquito did as he 
I'tas advised. Being a modern mos- 
quito he put in an insertion reading 
“Caste and dowry no bar.” The only 
response came from a lady fly. He 
didn’t let that stand in their way and 
the two were duly married. 

After many months his mosquito 
friends asked him, “You've been mar- 
ried for quite some time, why haven’t 
you had children yet?” 

The mosquito looked quite crestfal- 
len. “How can I approach her? Every 
night before we go to bed, she smears 
herself with Odomos.” 

(Contributed by Sunecta Hud hi raja. 
New Delhi) • 


27 








The state as charade 


Arun Shourie on 1990 — an analysis 


I W): almost 4,()()() killed in 
Punjiib; hundreds in Kash- 
mir; hundreds upon hun- 
dreds in communal riots. 
Worse, parts oi the 
country have clearly slipped out of the 
reach of the government of the coun- 
try. In Punjab, the terrorists’ writ 
runs, not that of the government. 
They have graduated from mere kill- 
ing to announcing that now they rule. 
They decree a code for the press: it is 
obeyed. They decree a code for AIR 
and Doordarshan: it is obeyed. They 
decree a code of dress for women: it is 
obeyed. They decree levies- Rs 200 
for those who own land and ten per 
cent of income from professionals in 
certain areas: these are duly and 
promptly paid. They declare that 
doors shall not be barred at night so 
that they can enter, avail of what they 
fancy and move out freely: the doors 
are left open. They decree that dogs 
must be shot so that their movements 
are not impeded or announced: they 
are so shot. 

In Kashmir, the government takes 
back five it insisted were aiding and 
abetting those who are breaking the 
country. It agrees even to pay em- 
ployees, not those five in particular 
out everyone, for the 71 days in which 
they struck work to get the five back. 

The question about borrowing or 
not borrowing from the International 
Monetary Fund (IMF). As if we have 
options. Today, our foreign exchange 
reserves are just Rs 3,000 crores — not 
enough to finance imports of just three 
weeks. Worse, they are Rs 3,000 
crores in large part because they are 
shored up by deposits from NRls tot- 
alling Rs 18,000 crores, that is, six 
times those reserves. But these de- 
posits are here on the guarantee that 
they can be taken out at any time in 
foreign exchange. With our invest- 
ment rating having been downgraded, 
with non-governments following non- 
governments, with regions after re- 
gions going out of control, with kill- 
ings and feuds, just a tremor — the 
mere news that the IMF loan we pre- 
tend to so reluctant to take is in fact 
not goin|i|(l cc«l|i^rough — can trig- 
ger wholA of these de- 


posits. That will compel us to renege 
on the guarantee of convertibility. 
And that reneging will... 

So close are we to the Latin Amer- 
ican spiral... 

The charade 

That is the situation. And the re- 
sponse? 

Governments replace governments. 
On occasion the rationale differed. 
For instance, in a parliamentary 
democracy governments are supposed 
to derive their legitimacy from elec- 
tions: the raison d' etre of this one is 
that having it averts elections. But the 
pre-occupations remain the same: riv- 
als and factions, not the situation. 

Chappals and mikes fly in the UP 
Assembly, MLAs are thrashed by 
MLAs. But we pretend that some 
propriety has actually been fulfilled: 
“Mulayam survives show of strength,” 
say the papers. Chappals, mikes, pap- 
er-weights, chairs fly in the Bihar 


Assembly. There is commotion, dis- 
order, abuse, horse-trading. But we 

f iretend that the requirement of par- 
iamentary democracy has been met: 
“Laloo government wins vote of confi- 
dence,” the papers proclaim. 

Within days, the 17 ministers be- 
come 72. We make-beleive that what 
is in place is a government, literally 
something that will govern, admini.s- 
ter, attend to things. 

A log-jam 

A log-jam; there isn’t an essential 
service in which wc can enforce the 
law banning strikes; there isn’t a sub- 
sidy we can reduce... Governments 
verging on bankruptcy proclaim 
boons: “A government hard-pressed 
for money,” begins the Business and 
Political Observers news report on the 
rally at Sisauli, “gave away at least Rs 
300 crores yesterday in a bid to gain 
political influence in about 12 Jat- 
dominated Lok Sabha constituencies 



28 


SUNDAY 30 Otownbw 1000-6 January 1001 



of western Uttar Pradesh. Chief minis- 
ter Mulayam Singh Yadav flew down 
to the Bharatiya Kisan Union stron- 
ghold along with Mr Chandra Shekhar 
and deputy prime minister Devi Lai to 
announce the concessions...” 

The Gulf crisis shoots up oil prices; 
at the very time tension with Pakistan 
mounts that crisis, makes our oil sup- 
plies uncertain; but here, local strikes 
and agitations and those petty ineffi- 
ciencies reduce our domestic oil out- 
put by two million tonnes... 

No one is able to quell the insurgen- 
cy. The first few months the new rul- 
ers blame the deterioration on the pre- 
vious set. By then they develop a 
vested interest; the situation is not 
that terrible after all, they begin 
asserting, and last night Nawaz Sharif 
himself called the Prime Minister and 
assured him... 

In this ferocious vortex, the pre- 
occupations of our rulers: Ajit Singh 
jostles to become president of the 
Janata Dal, Devi Lai dons a gold 
crown in Meham. Chandra Shekhar 
attends a rally in Delhi where he is 
hailed a “karmayogi”... 

Apd more shadows are sent out to 
fortify shadows. Laws follow laws to 
give the executives powers to imple- 
ment the laws that were enacted to 
give it the powers to implement the 



laws that were... But how can this 
shuffling make any difference? The 
new ones will be as bereft of hands 
and feet: one Governor replaces 
another in Punjab, but the new one 
has to work with the same police 
force, the same administration. 

And there is the same effort to 
appear to be new, to have taken 




In Punjab, the 
terrorists’ writ runs, 
not that of the 
government. They 
have naduated from 
mere kiiiing to 
announcing that now 
ffreyruie. And, 
whatever their 
decree, it is being 
obeyed 


^^uns are not the 
answer,” says 
Chandra Shekhar 
on Punjab, on 
Kashmir, "but I wiii 
not hesitate to use 
guns if that is 
necessary...” How 
is this any different 
from what we have 
been fed for years? 


charge. New pronouncements of poli- 
cy, new ennunciations. But when you 
study them, they are not one whit 
different. 

The old approach to the Eighth 
Plan, which was the new approach till 
two months ago, is to be discarded, we 
hear, and a new one will be ready by 
March. It will aim at— the surprise of 
surprises — employment! 

The new commerce minister is full 
of ideas. He says he will cut the costs 
of exports, and cut away non-essential 
imports! That is the new idea. 

Sometime the same minister proc- 
laims the new departure. Subodh Kant 
Sahay was minister of state for home 
in V.P. Singh’s government. 'He is 
minister of state in Chandra Shekhar's 
government. Some Jnanshewar Mis- 
hra too was some minister then, he too 
is some minister now. And yet if you 
were to listen to them, you’d imagine 
they will suddenly do what they never 
did during all those months. 

“Guns are not the answer," says 
Chandra Shekhar on Punjab, on 
Kashmir,”but I will not hesitate to use 
guns If that is necessary. I appeal to 
everyone to return to the path of 
peace,” he says,“but I will use ail the 
force necessary to quell communal kil- 
lings.. ’]How is any of this any different 
from what we have been fed for years? 
And what of it is any better than a 
cliche? Indeed, an empty cliche: for 
none of it has behind it the ability to 
transmute the proclamation into prac- 
tice. 

But this pretence at things happen- 
ing is not just worthless. It is worse 


•UNDAV 30 DMwnbw 1990--6 Jwiuwy 1901 


COMMENT 



Chappals and mikes fly 
in the UP Assembly. But 
we pretend that some 
propriety has been 
fulflli^: ^IMuiayam 
survives show of 
strength,” say the 
papers 


There is commotion, 
disorder and 
horse-trading in the 
Bihar Assembly. The 
papers, nevertheless 
proclaim, ^^Laloo 
government wins vote 
of confidence” 


than worthless. In the temptation to 
work a miracle by “adopting a new 
approach”, in the anxiety to prove 
that it has a mind of its own, each 
undoes the little that had got done 
during the previous round. 

V.P. Singh appoints Jagmohan. The 
man saves the Valley for India. But 
V.P. Singh capitulates, and removes 
him. A fatal signal to the police and 
administration. But then he stands 
firm on five government employees 
whose acts in the judgement of the 
man on the spot have given succour to 
those who will break our country. 
Chandra Shekhar capitulates, and re- i 
verses that. 

The police in Punjab is in disarray, 
it is demoralised as hell. With Hercu- 
lean effort J.F. Rebeiro rehabilitates 
it. Rajiv, at the end of his tether, 
capitulates and removes him 

Police morale and effectiveness 
plunge. With Hurculean effort, K.P.S. 
Gill revives them. Chandra Shekhar 
capitulates and removes him. Morale 
collapses again. 

Each time the police on the ground 
gets a hand on the terrorists, the gov- 
ernment in Delhi proclaims that it will 
talk to the latter. Which policeman 
will go after persons today under the 
prospect that they may be his minis- 
ters tomorrow? 

Bizarre arguments surface. De- 
velopments are cited as evidence which 
have no resemblance to the situation 



at all: “If handing power to them 
could defuse the rebels in Mizoram, 
why will doing so not ensure the same 
thine in Kashmir, in Punjab?” And 
suddenly you are the one who must 
produce evidence rather than them. 

Bizarre gambles are pressed as se- 
rious policy options! “Call elections. 


Let the militants win. Let the Assem- 
bly pass a resolution declaring Khalis- 
tan. We can always dissolve it and 
impose President’s Rule...” 

Unprovability becomes proof: “But 
how can you be sure that just because 
we agree to the formation of Khalistan 
in four districts it will set off a chain 
reaction leading to the dismember- 
ment of the country?” 

These are not arguments. They arc 
rationalisations of the helpless. 

E verything proclaims that helpless- 
ness. Forty arc killed in Punjab, 
we call a bandh in Delhi. Two hun- 
dred and fifty die in city after city, we 
sit on a fast, in a dharna in Delhi. 

But all of it is just a going through 
the motions, which are habits with us, 
which arc the only things we know 
how to do. That the bandh we call to 
protest the' killings in Punjab is in De- 
lhi, that the dharna or fast we execute 
against the killings in UP, Andhra, 
Gujarat is in Delhi shows only that we 
are not able to do anything where it 
matters — that is in Punjab, in those 
strife-torn cities. 

In any case, even these pretences 
are soon abandoned. The bandh 
evokes less and less response— we 
make sure now to call it on a day on 
which most markets are closed in any 
case. The dharna ends in a few hours. 
The fast is abandoned on the fourth 
dav... 






COMMENT 



The GuH crisis shoots up oil prices. But here, local 
strikes and agitations and those petty inefficiencies 
reduce our domestic oil output by two million 
tonnes... 


The serious pretence 

It isn’t just that there is pretence. 
There is the pretence that the pretence 
is not pretence, that it is something 
substantial. My friend, Arif, sits on a 
fast. I, full of solemnity, visit him. 
And advice him in all seriousness of 
precautions that must be taken — 
anaemas, lime water with salt — in pro- 
longed fasts. My father, full of con- 
cern, advises him to conserve his ener- 
gy by remaining silent. That is at five 
pm. Within hours, V.P. Singh arrives, 
requests Arif to break his fast. And he 
breaks it in return for the promise that 
V.P. Singh will do all he can to restore 
communal amity! 

The next morning’s Indian Express 
carries a fulsome editorial about the 
indefinite fast: “A commendable ges- 
ture,” it says. “While police and milit- 
ary,” it says, “can put down communal 
riots, the latter will continue to occur 
if this hatred spreads or even remains 
at its present level. It has to be re- 
moved. No law and order machinery 
can do it, it is only gestures like Mr 
Khan’s which have a chance of doing it 
by making people pause and think. Mr 
Khan had sought to achieve precisely 
this by emphasising the need tor intro- 
spection and by refusing to get into an 
apportioning of blame. This makes it 
possible for right-thinking people of 
all religions to share his concern and 
join in his most commendable effort. 


One hopes that they will do so, as one 
hopes that his gesture will draw the 
attention of the public at large to the 
enormity of what is happening and the 
urgent need to put an end to it.” 

That is on the editorial page. The 
page opposite carries a two- 
paragraph, one-column item: “Arif 
breaks fast.” 


Gesltires, yes. Mere gestures. 

And such fleeting gestures. 

But we go through the motions of 
taking them seriously, of dissecting 
them, of debating them with such 
earnestness, of building hopes on 
them. 

Switching off 

But isn’t that “one hooes that his 
gesture will draw the attention of the 
public at large also ju.st pretence? 

Do wc really expect that it will? 

For the people have switched off. 
When was the last time that you 
actually went through the 800 words in 
the morning paper about yesterday’s 
killings in Punjab? Or in Kashmir? Or 
on ULI A? 

I go to a party. It is lavish. There are 
5500 guests. Bearers serve drinks. The 
la’.»les are full of food. 

1 go to another party. There are 
2000 guests. Bearers serve drinks. The 
tables are full of even better food... 

1 go to a lunch. There are another 
hundred guests. Bearers serve drinks. 
The tables are full of food... 

“The last thing in this damned place 
is going to be a party,” says my friend 
of old, Saed Naqvi. 

“The last thing is going to be an 
editorial on the parly,” I say,. 

Yeh hhi theek hai yaar, ” says Naqvi, 
and begins dictating the editoiial that 
will be! “Notwithstanding the writing 
on the wall... But we for one...” • 



That the dlftanM or 
fast we execute 
against the killings in 
Andhra Pradesh, (far 
left) Gujarat (centre) 
and UP is held in 
Delhi, shows that we 
are not able to do 
anything where it 
matters 


SUNDAY 30 December 1000—6 January 1001 


31 


The more, the meiiler 

Uttar Pradesh CM Mulayam Singh Yadav buys himself 
support by handing out ministerial berths 


W hen it comes to politic- 
al solutions, one 
Yadav is not very 
different from the 
other. A couple of 
weeks after Bihar chief minister Laloo 
Prasad Yadav increased the strength 
of his ministry to a mind-boggling 71, 
Mulayam Singh Yadav played much 
the same game: the day aftci ridicul- 
ing Laloo's action at a press confer- 
ence. Mulayam Singh inducted 40 new 
ministers — 18 of Cabinet rank, 22 
ministers of state and six deputy minis- 
ters — in the first-ever expansion of his 
council, raising its strength to 55. Yet 
another expansion, the chief minister 
announced, was on the cards, and in- 
formed sources claimed that every 
MLA had been promised a ministerial 
berth, or at the very least, the chair- 
manship of a public sector corpora- 
tion. 

If the exercise proved anything it 
was that Mulayam Singh Yadav no 

32 i 


longer qualified for the role of the 
strongman of UP. For his attempts, at 
what could only be interpreted as poli- 
tical bribery, made it clear that the 
chief minister was no longer sure of 
the support of his party members. 
And that the only way he could assure 
himself about their loyalties was by 
giving them ministerial berths or im- 
portant official positions, complete 
with all the trappings of power: gov- 
ernment cars, spacious bungalows and 
a police escort. 

Only twice before in the history of 
the state has the council of ministers 
been quite so large. Once when Chan- 
dra Bhanu Gupta was chief minister 
and the other when T.N. Singh 
headed the administration. Not surpri- 
singly then, Mulayam Singh's expan- 
sion exercise created quite a few logis- 
tical problems. For one thing, the 
state administration couldn’t provide 
offices to all the ministers. And, as is 
usual in Uttar Pradesh, a strong-arm 


approach was adopted to get around 
that one. Several officers of joint 
secretary and deputy secretary rank 
arrived at the Vidhan Bhavan Sachiva- 
laya the next day, to find that their 
belongings had been chucked out in 
their absence. And that the new minis- 
ters were in possession of their rooms. 

The civil servants weren't in the 
least amused. But as far as Mulayam 
Singh Yadav was concerned, their dis- 
leasure was a small price to pay for 
is continuance as UP chief minister. 

A fter all, he was pleasing everyone 
else, wasn’t he? Chandra Shekhar 
could hardly quibble when as many as 
four MLAs from his constituency, 
Ballia, had been included in the minis- 
try. Bharatiya Kisan l^nion (BKU) 
leader Mahendra Singh Tikait recom- 
mended the inclusion of his supporter 
Dharam Singh Baliyan, who had 
offered to resign when Tikait was 
taken into custody by the UP govern- 


•UMOAY 30 OMambar 1090-5 January 1901 




ment. Mulayam Singh acceeded to the 
reo^uest . 

Conciliation was, clearly, the order 
of the day. Ravindra Nath Tiwari, 
who’d once initiated a campaign 
against Mulayam Singh, accusing him 
of criminalising politics, found a berth 
in the Cabinet. Those MLAs who had 
deserted V.P. Singh for Yadav were 
rewarded for their pains, including 
former blue-eyed boy of the Raja, Ra- 
jendra Tripathi, who’d been home 
minister in V.P. Singh’s UP C'abmet. 

Yadav didn't just take care of his 
friends; he also ensured that his ene- 
mies would be slightly less secure after 
the expansion of his ministry. Fhe 
most obvious target was, of course, 
the Raja. 1'hree MLAs from V.P. 
Singh’s constituency, Fatehpiii, weie 
included in the council, on the 
assumption that they would switch 
loyalties to Mulayam Singh once in 
government. Also, the chief minister 
took care to include ten MLAs, who 
owed allegiance to Jat .lanata Dal 
leader Ajit Singh one with C'abinet 
rank, seven as ministers of state and 
the others as deputy ministers. 'I'his 
move; Yadav hoped, would reduce 


V.P. SINGH 

Three MLAs from the 
Raja’s constituency, 
Fatehpur, were made 
ministers in the hope 
that they would 
switch loyalties to 
Mulayam Singh once 
in government 


Singh’s strength and denude his base 
in western Uttar Pradesh. Four of 
those belonging to the erstwhile Jan 
Morcha group were also given min- 
isterial berths. 

The chief minister may not have 
kept regional balances in mind while 
constituting his ministry but he had 
certainly given representation to all 
the major political lobbies within the 
Janata Dal(S). 

Nevertheless the announcement of 
the names of some of the incumbents 
created some controversy. Critics 
carped at the inclusion of Parmai Lai 
as minister of state for minor irriga- 
tion, harking back to the jokes that 
had done the rounds when he gave up 
his Lok Sabha seat to stay back in 
Uttar Pradesh. It had been said then 
that he was staying back only because 
liquor shops in UP remained open till 
late in the night, unlike those in Delhi. 
Mulayam Singh had no business mak- 
ing such a man minister, it was sug- 
gested. 

The appointment of D.P. Yadav ol 
Ghaziabad also came in for some flak. 
Yadav, it was alleged, headed a mafia 
group m his home town. And his in-' 


CHANDRA SHEKHAR 

The Prime Minister 
could hardly quibble 
when as many as four 
MLAs from his 
constituency, Ballia, 
were included in the 
ministry 


< 


LALOO PRASAD YADAV 

The day after he’d 
ridiculed the Bihar 
chief minister for his 
jumbo-sized ministry, 
the Uttar Pradesh CM 
played exactly the 
same game 


elusion seemed to prove that Mulayam 
Singh was responsible for the crimina- 
lisation of UP politics. 

Observers were also hard-pressed to 
explain the non-inclusion of Kamlesh 
Pathak, the most loyal of all Yadav’s 
followers. It had been taken for 
granted that Pathak would find a berth 
in the ministry. And the fact that he’d 
been left out seemed to suggest that 
Mulayam Singh was under pressure of 
some sort. 

H e did manage to reward his 
favourites with promotions, 
though. Ram Saran Das, for instance, 
was given the important portfolios of 
cooperatives and sugarcane develop- 
ment. (Mulayam Singh had earlier 
wanted him appointed as the state unit 
president of the Janata Dal but V.P. 
Singh preferred Rampujan Patel.) 
Sukhda Mishra (wife of principal 
secretary to the Prime Minister, S.K. 
‘Chappie’ Mishra), yet another 
favourite, was assigned additional 
charge of urban development and 
tourism. Mohammad Azam Khan, 
whose removal had been demanded 
by several Janata Dal(S) leaders on 
the grounds that he was a communalist 
(he's also leader of the Babri Masjid 
Action Committee), was, on the con- 
trary, rewarded by an elevation of 
rank, with the grant of revenue and 
rehabilitation portfolios. 

The Chandra Shekhar loyalist, Vik- 
ramaditya Pandey, suffered in the 
reallocation of ministries, though. He 
was divested of the charge of urban 
development and given the unimpor- 
tant portfolio of technical education, 
which doesn’t count for much in Uttar 
Pradesh. 

The major portfolios — home, fi- 
nance, industry, energy, informa- 
tion — remained with Mulayam Singh 
Yadav. The chief minister, however, 
was embarrassed enough to render a 
self-conscious explanation as to why 
this should be so. “I could not share 
the home portfolio with anybody as it 
would create problems for him. Ex- 
perience shows that two or more 
ministers in the home department cre- 
ates problems. It affects the police 
administration,” said Yadav. 

The explanation didn’t really ring 
true, what with the communal mad- 
ness sweeping the state when 
Mulayam Singh, and Mulayam Singh 
alone, was the home minister. But the 
bemused public, yet to familiarise it- 
self with the vast number of new 
ministers, seemed to have decided to 
leave that for later. • 

Rafv ShuMa /Lucknow 


SUNDAY 30 Daoember 1900-<5 January 1991 


33 








NEWSBEAT 


Battle of nerves 

Chandra Shekhar fails to get the better of M. Karimanidhi 


hour, going off to Hyderabad to su- 
pervise the construction of a house, 
and then moving over to Bangalore to 
visit a relative. And when she does 
disappear, even her senior party col- 
leagues have no means of getting in 
touch with her. “We sometimes feel 
that the madam is not really interested 
in seeing Karunanidhi dismissed," 
quipped a senior AIADMK function- 
ary. One view gaining currency is that 
Jayalalitha would prefer to wait and 
let the Congress do the dirty job of 
bringing Karunanidhi down. 

And there is no denying that the 



Chandra Shekhar (left) and Karunanidhi: at loggerheads 


T amil Nadu chief minister M. 
Karunanidhi betrays no ner- 
vousness. Though speculations 
are rife about his growing uneasiness 
regarding the shape of things to come, 
Karunanidhi continues to put on a 
brave face. “So long as I hold a pen in 
my hand, 1 shall not bother if the chief 
ministership is taken away from me," 
he defiantly wrote in the 22 December 
issue of the DMK party paper, Miira- 
soli. 

The mo.st discussed topic in the 
state's media and political circles to- 
day is* will Chandra Shekhar dismiss 
him and, if yes, when? The rumour 
mills have been churning out a variety 
of likely possibilities ever since Chan- 
dra Shekhar censured the state gov- 
ernment for Its failure to curb LTTE 
(Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) 
activists. 

Congress(l) president Rajiv Gandhi 
has also been strident in his tirade 
against the DMK regime, giving the 
impression that he would pressure 
Chandra Shekhar, whose minority 
government is propped up by the Con- 
gress(I), into toppling the DMK gov- 
ernment in order to please his ally, the 
AIADMK, and its general secretary, 
Jayalalitha. But Karunanidhi’s real 
shock came on 14 December, when 
Chandra Shakhar told Janata Dal(S) 
workers in Lucknow that the Tamil 
Nadu government must heed the Cen- 
tre’s advice. “The days are gone when 
the Union Government used to be 
dictated from Madras," he declared, 
while commerce minister Subrama- 
niam Swamy was in Madras, trying to 
embarrass Karunanidhi on the LTTE 
issue. 

The chief minister is pinning his 
hope on the good relations he still has 
with Janata Dal(S) strongman and de- 
puty prime minister Devi Lai and his 
son Om Prakash Chautala, one of the 
party general secretaries. But Karuna- 
nidhi has a more palpable reason for 
optimism: the confusion within the 
AIADMK. Except for demanding the 
DMK’s dismissal occasionally, 
AIADMK chief Jayalalitha has not 
pressed home the advantage she en- 
joys with the friendly regime at the 
Centre. In fact, she chose to quit the 
political centrestage at the crucial 

SUNDAY 30 OMambtr 1900-6 Jvtuaiy 1991 


Congress(l) is getting impatient. “The 
Congress lost power to the DMK way 
back in 1967, and barring a sprinkling 
of leaders who became central minis- 
ters, we have been completely starved 
of the fruits of power," confided an 
exasperated Congressman. It is still 
premature to speculate on the nature 
of the future Congress(I)-ADMK 
alliance, but reports say that the tor- 
mei plans to demand a forty per cent 
of the 234 Assembly seats in the event 
of an elections. 

M^eanwhile, Karunanidhi has played 
his card cautiously. He has been un- 
characteristically meek in countering 
Shekhar’s allegation that Madras had 
been dictating terms to New Delhi 
during V.P. Singh’s rule. The DMK 
gover.nment has aways cooperated 


with the Centre, he said, avoiding the 
blistering rhelonc that he is associated 
with. As for the LITE activists in the 
state, the chief minister has main- 
tained that the militants were initially 
provided with funds and sanctuary by 
former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi 
and his predecessor M.G. Ramachan- 
dran and stressed that it was the re- 
^onsibilityof the navy and the Coast 
(juards to check the smuggling of guns 
by the LTTE militants. 

He has also taken steps to show that 
he is not ready to let the LTTE have a 
free run. He ordered a crackdown on 


the Eelam militants on the eve of Sub- 
ramaniam Swamy’s visit, and the 
police announced that 81 LTTE 
cadres had been arrested. And back- 
ing Karunanidhi is Governor Surjeet 
Singh Barnala, the former Punjab 
chief minister. Barnala called on the 
Prime Minister in New Delhi on 17 
December and tried to impress upon 
Shekhar that the DMK government 
had taken adequate steps to contain 
the LTTE. When asked to comment 
on the possible threat to the I’amil 
Nadu government, Barnala dismissed 
the question as a non-issue. 

So Karunanidhi remains where he 
is, but with a difference. He is n*) 
longer the imperious chief minister he 
used to be before November • 

R, Bhagwan Singh/Madras 

35 



MPUNMACY 


Coming 

cl oser? 

But at the end of another round of Indo-Pak 
talks, the Kashmir issue remains unresolved 


I I has become something ol a 
ritual. At regular intervals, fore- 
ign dignitaries ol India and 
Pakistan meet to discuss bilater- 
al issues, piomising to iron out 
the differences that have been coming 
in the way of cordial Indo-Pak lela- 
tions since Independence. And, in- 
variably, the talks make little head- 
way, often ending up m extended 
lunch and dinner sessions. 

The recently-concluded meeting of 
the foreign secretaries ol the two 
countries in Islamabad was no ditlc- 
rent It began on a promising note but 
ended achieving little. Yet, the talks 
were crucial since Indo-Pak relations 
were at an all-time low following the 
ouster of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. 
More important, the parleys were 
being held at a time when new teams 
had taken over both in New Delhi and 
Islamabad. 

But the talks didn’t go beyond the 
issuing of a joint statement by the 
Indian foreign secretary, Muclikund 
Dubey, and his Pakistani counterpart, 
Shahryar M. Khan, reiterating that 
the meeting was held in a free and 
frank atmosphere. Dubey, of coiiisc, 
went further. “We managed this time 
to agree on a number of specific issues 
which w'ill have many positive implica- 
tions in the realisation of our ob jective 
to reduce tension between the two 
countries and in the normalisation of 
relations.” The two secretaries als(> 
decided to meet again in P'ebruary 
1991 in New Delhi for yet another 
round of talks. 

According to Dubey, the qualitative 
change of atmosphere was primarily 
due to the initiative taken by the new 
Prime Ministers— Chandra’ Shekhar 
and Nawaz Sharif. At the recent 
SAARC’ summit in Male, both the 
leaders agreed to sort out contentious 
issues across the table. But even dur- 


; 'if 


ing the Islamabad talks, it was clear 
that this would be a near-impossible 
task. 'l ake the Kashmir pioblem, for 
instance. Dubey categorically told 
Khan that the troubled stale was an 
integral part of India and he would 
only discuss the issue within the ambit 
of the Shim la agreement. 

Though there has been no change of 
attitude of both India and Pakistan on 
the crucial Kashmir question, the two 
sides decided to exchange the instru- 
ments of ratification of the agreement 
prohibiting attacks on each other's 
nuclear installations and facilities. The 
agreement, which contains crucial in- 
formation on the location of nuclear 
installations in both countries, was 
signed in December 1988. and subse- 
quently ratified by both the govern- 
ments. 'The agreement now comes into 
force next nn)nth. 

The two foreign secretaries also 



agreed that the surveyors-general of 
both countries would take up the job 
of demarcating the land boundary m 
Sir C reek (Kiitch) soon Discussions 
on the Wulai barrage and the I'ulbul 
navigation project would be lesumed 
theieafler, though India would have 
preferred simultaneous j)arleys. The 
Pakistani side consideis the pnqecl in 
the Kashmir Valiev a barrage, while 
India envisages it as a navigation pro- 
ject, and would like to expedite work 
on it as soon as f>ossible, since sub- 



According to foreign 
secretary Muchkund 
Dubey, the 
qualitative change of 
atmosphere was 
primarily due to the 
initiative taken by the 
new Prime 
Ministers— Chandra 
Shekhar and Nawaz 
Sharif 


SUNDAY 30 Deoembw 1990-5 JanuMy 1991 





stantial invcstmcnls have already been 
made. The issue will, in all probabil- 
ity, be discussed within the Iramcwork 
of the Indus Water rrcaly. 

Another important outcome of the 
talks was that a hoi-line would be m- 
.stalled so that the directors-general of 
military operations (l)GMO) of both 
countries could remain in constant 
touch with each other. This, it was 
felt, would go a long way, to reduce 
tension along the border. Until now, 
the DGMO's only got in touch with 
each other when there was an 
emergency. The Pakistanis claimed 
that there had been no contact in the 
last three months; now the two 
DGMOs would exchange information 
on a weekly basis. It was also decided 
that military experts from both sides 
would meet in Islamabad in PT'bruary 
to finalise the drafts of the agreement 
on advance notice of military exercises 
and manoeuvres and also to give 
shape to the agreement on the preven- 
tion of airspace\iolation by military 
aircraft. The two sides hinted that dis- 
cussions on the sensitive Siaehen Gla- 
cier issue would also be taken up in 
the next round of talks in New Delhi. 

B ut this is not to suggest that every- 
thing went fine m Islamabad for 
the Indian side. The Pakistani foreign 
secretary was un fazed by India’s firm 
stand on Kashmir, and was equally 
adamant that his side would hold its 
ground. Khan reiterated support for 


what Pakistan called the Kashmiris' 
right to self-determination, but, 
strangely enough, he also emphasised 
that the Kashmir issue needed to be 
resolved in accordance with the UN 
resolution. 

Describing the Kashmir problem as 
an “international dispute" Khan said 
that he had explained to (he Indian 
delegation that the developments in 
the Valley were “wholly indigenous", 
and that Pakistan had nothing to do 
with the violence there. While admit- 
ting that Pakistan was providing “mor- 
al and political support" to the seces- 
sionists, Khan denied that Pakistan 
was giving them anv military support. 

Dubey, who could not accept 
Khan's position warned him that aid- 
ing subversives clearly amounted to a 
violation of the Shimla agreement. 
Drawing Khan's attention to the five 
proposals submitted by India, Dubey 
pointed out that if those were 
accepted it would be a proof of Pakis- 
tan’s claim that it was not instigating 
terrorist activity in India. Though 
Pakistan had been emphatic that it 
would not interfere in India's internal 
affairs, it remained vague in terms of 
specific issues, alleged Dubey. What 
Pakistan did offer was a proposal to 
introduce international surveillance 
on the borders. 

Pakistan once again stressed its de- 
mand for the re-deployment of troops 
to their peace-time locations, but 
Dubey pointed out that there was no 


Pakistan stressed its 
demand for the 
re-deployment of troops 
to their peace-time 
locations, but Dubey 
pointed out that there 
was no cause for panic 
and the troops were 
there only to maintain 
law and order along the 
border. And when Khan 
stated that troop 
deployment in Punjab 
and Kashmir was far in 
excess of what the 
situation demanded 
Dubey bluntly told him 
that this posed no threat 
to Pakistan 


cause for panic, and the troops were 
there only to maintain law and order 
along the border. And when Khan 
stated that troop deployment in Pun- 
jab and Kashmir was far in excess of 
what the situation demanded, Dubey 
bluntly told him that this posed no 
threat to Pakistan. 

W hile Pakistan once again 
favouied a regional approach 
towards nuclear non-proliferation—- 
Khan cited the recent agreement be- 
tween Bia/il and Argentina aS a case 
in point — Dubey communicated the 
Indian view: that nuclear non- 
proliteration could only be discussed 
within a global context. A regional 
agreement could carry with it the dan- 
ger of interference by external pow- 
ers, argued Dubey, hinting at the 
problems Pakistan was having because 
the US had suspended aid ostensibly 
because it was suspicious of Pakistan's 
nuclear intentions. However, Khan, 
while briefing journalists, said that his 
Indian counterpart had promised to 
consider the option of a regional 
approach. 

in Dubey s words, the Islamabad 
talks were “a measured step forward", 
and they signified that both India and 
Pakistan were against any sort of con- 
frontation. C onsidering that the two 
countries were on the brink of a war 
only a few months back, this is no 
mean achievement. 

Shiraz Sidhva/New Delhi 


tUMlAY 30 0«»inb«r 1990-5 January 1 Wi 


37 



A n undercurrent of tension 
runs through the sleepy 
countryside of Haryana, a 
desperate determination 
not to let Om Prakash 
Chautala's grandiose Disneyland 
seheme become a reality. 

On 7 January 1990, 80,()()0-odd far- 
mers of 26 villages in the area an^und 
Sohna, a popular week-end retreat 
two hours away from Delhi, received a 
notice under Section 4 of the Land 
Acquisition Act informing them that 
their land would be acquired within a 
year. Chautala, who was then the 
chief minister of Haryana, announced 
the details soon after. His scheme for 
the development of the state envis- 
aged the setting-up of a massive enter- 
tainment complex along the lines of 
Disneyland in America, estimated at 
Rs 1,(X)0 crore, and spread over an 
astounding 28,000 acres of fertile land 
(]8,CKK) acres of flat land and 1(),0(K) 


Farmers gear up to 
oppose Chautala’s 

nuM-crore amusement 
park scheme 

acres of hills), 60 kms from Delhi. 
Interestingly, the utopian tourist get- 
away is built only on 200 acres of land 
in America. 

The announcement of the ambitious 
scheme, ostensibly to provide employ- 
ment and bring in precious foreign 
exchange to the country, galvanised 
the farmers of the area into action. 
Shaken out of their routine humdrum 
existence, the farmers of Haryana 
have been waging a relentless battle to 
hold on to their land since 7 January — 
fighting the might of the grand old 
man of Haryana politics, Devi Lai,.. 


and his son, by holding rallies, demon- 
strations and pleading with anybody 
who can help their cause. Already, the 
farmers, agitating under the banner of 
the Disneyland Virodhi Morcha, have 
held three rallies in the capital's Boat 
Club, demonstrated outside the Prime 
Minister and Devi LaPs residence and 
organised five all-village panchayats. 
In the last panchayat meeting on 7 
October, the farmers passed a resolu- 
tion declaring that they would not give 
up their land “under any circumst- 
ances”. 

“You must understand what our 
land means to us. This is where we 
have lived for generations, this is our 
home. So what if we get good com- 
pensation? That will finish after some 
time. Then what will sustain us?” 
asked Dharam Singh of Abheypur vil- 
lage, declaring passionately that they 
would die but not give up in this “fight 
to the finish”. Pointing to the lush 


38 


SUNDAY 30 Dsoember 1000—5 January 1001 






The battlelines are drawn. The farmers of Haryana are 
waging a relentless battle to hold on to their land, 
fighting the might of Lai and his son, Chautala 


green mustard fields around him, Tek 
Chand, the sarpanch of Lakhwas vil- 
lage, added, “We would have consi- 
dered giving up our land if the propos- 
al was to build hospitals or colleges 
here. But to give up our livelihood and 
our homes just to amuse the rich! We 
will not let that happen. Let Chautala 
use his own land for that.'' 

Such angry voices are raised in ev- 
ery village, in every sleepy hamlet of 
Haryana. And, every villager, 
whether illiterate or educated, logical- 
ly argued out his case — how ridiculous 
the entire scheme was because, the 
land produces an estimated 5,60,000 
quintals of grain every year, because 
the hills around are a grazing ground 
for cattle belonging to the landless, 
because there are several thousand ex- 
servicemen who have spent their lives 
fighting for their country and have 
now invested in land in the area. “Be- 
sides, there are lots of war widows 


who have been given land by the gov- 
ernment to sustain themselves. Is this 
the reward for sacrificing their hus- 
band's lives," asked an emotional Par- 
mar Singh of Damdama village. 

A nd, when it is not pure emotion 
and sentiment, it is open hostility. I 
Person after person lepcated how dis- 
content and perceived injustice in 
Punjab led to the rise of terrorism. 
“Between Punjab and Delhi lies 
Haryana. If Disneyland actually com- 
es through, our youth will also become 
teriorists. Then who will stop them 
from reaching the portals of power?" 
asked a woman, whose son is a jawan 
in the army and who subsists on her 
two acres of land in Damdama. The 
threat is obvious. 

While the farmers fight their bat- 
tles, politicians fight theirs. When the 
movement first started in the begin- 
ning of the year, it was the president 


of the Bandhua Mukti Morcha, Swami 
Agnivesh, who took up the cudgels on 
the farmers' behalf, organising press 
conferences and sit-ins outside minis- 
ters' residences in Delhi. Today, 
admits Swami Agnivesh himself, “I 
have lost touch. Maybe you should ask 
Rajesh Pilot.” 

So, it is now the former Union sur- 
face transport minister, Rajesh Pilot's 
turn to mobilise the farmers against 
Chautala. “When you are talking of 
Disneyland, distance is obviously not 
a consideration. So why can’t you plan 
a similar scheme further away where 
the land is barren," he asked, adding 
that Chautala and his men had already 
begun to acquire some of the hilly 
land. Referring to Devi Lai, he said, 
“No one who genuinely cares for the 
farmer can possibly initiate and then 
go ahead with such a disastrous plan." 

With Pilot's entry into the fray, the 
anti-Disneyland agitation has also ac- 
quired fresh fervour. In a massive rally 
at the Boat Club— the biggest so far — 
over 50,000 farmers, from all over the 
country, came to support the move- 
ment and lustily" cheer the speakers. 
And, among the speakers included 
wereia host of political luminaries — 
former Jammu and Kashmir chief 
minister Farooq Abdullah, chief 
minister of Karnataka, S. Bangarap- 
pa, former chief ministers of Manipur 
and Nagaland, Jaichandra Singh and 
Hokishe Serna respectively and, of 
course. Pilot himself. In his fiery 
speech. Pilot ironically repeated much 
of what Devi Lai had been saying. He 
said that agriculture should be given 
the status of industry, that banking 
procedures should be simplified, that 
the recommendations of the National 
Agricultural Board be implemented 
and that cultivable land be used only 
for farming. 

In the face of all this, Chautala him- 
self kept a cool facade. A day after the 
rally he said that he was only finishing 
what the Congress, under the then 
chief minister Bhajan Lai, had started 
in 1983. A fact which Bhajan Lai de- 
nied hotly, saying that some IAS offic- 
ers had suggested it in 1984 but he had 
turned it down. Despite the wide- 
spread criticism, Chautala has stuck to 
his words, reiterating time and again 
that he would go ahead with the 
scheme and that the amusement park 
would change the profile of the state. 

And so the wranglings continue. As 
always, the farmers have taken a back 
seat with the rival politicians deter- 
mined to capitalise on the issue. • 

MInu Jain/New Delhi 


SUNDAY 30 OMMibw 190&--6 Januaiy 1M1 


39 



ANALYSIS 


1 ! ?■■■' — ^ 

How secure? 

Sharad Pawars position weakens 


A fter Veercndra Patil and 
Chenna Reddy, is it the 
turn of Mahai aslil ra*s 
Sharad Pawar? I'he ques- 
tion sounds a little ironic 
in the light of the kind of publicity that 
Pawar receives in the media these 
days: king-maker, strongman, future 
Prime Minister, next Congress presi- 
dent, etc But the chief minister does 
not appear to believe his own prop- 
aganda and within Pawar’s inner cir- 
cle, there is a palpable sense of near- 
panic. 

At one level, he is doing fine. He 
allegedly helped negotiate the CVm- 
gress-Chandra Shekhar alliance, re- 
tains a formidable power-base in 
Maharashtra, has collected enough 
money to finance a series of cam- 
paigns through his controversial land 
scams, is a media darling and is the 
only Congress(l) chief minister with a 
following of his own. 

But at another, more significant, 
level, all of the above have also work- 
ed against Pawar. First of all, there’s 
the claim that he was the go-between 
for Shekhar and Rajiv Ciandhi. Both 
men deny this. If anybody served as 
fixer, it was R.K. Dhawan. When 
Pawar threw a party at Maharashtra 
Bhavan to celebrate Shekhar's suc- 
cess, Rajiv Gandhi stayed away. 
Then, during the Prime Minister’s first 


visit to the city, Pawar stuck so close 
to him and arranged such an extensive 
series of engagements that Shekhar 
was clearly peeved. Now, Pawar- 
Chandra Shekhar relations are no lon- 
ger as close as they used to be. 

Then, there's the question of 
Pa war’s power-base. Few would de- 
ny that he is the most important lead- 
er in Maharashtra today. Neither the 
Janata Dal nor the BJP count for very 
much in the state and the Congress(I) 
is the only national party with a con- 
siderable following. While Pawar has 
his detractors within the Congress — 
A.R. Antulay, Vittal Gadgil, etc. — 
none of them has his stature. 

But for all this, the fact remains that 
under Pawar, the undivided Congress 
failed — for the first time in history — to 
win a majority ii\ this year's state 
Assembly election. (During the Janata, 
period, the Congress split into two. 
Neither faction got a majority but they 
united to form the government.) So 
while nobody can question Fa war's 
pre-eminence within the Congress(I), 
it is also clear that he’s not quite the 
popular leader his publicity makes him 
out to be. Rajiv Gandhi is only too 
aware of this and has been annoyed by 
recent media reports that claim that 
Pawar has national popularity. 

Pawar’s land scams are finally catch- 
ing up with him. Last year, when the 


scandal broke, most of the media 
ignored it. (Only two national maga- 
zines, Sunday and Business India 
thought it was worth a cover story.) 
Within Bombay, there was a brief flur- 
ry .of outraged publicity which sub- 
sided when it became clear that neith- 
er Pawar nor the Congress high com- 
mand intended to take note of it. 

This year, however, the issue has 
resurfaced. Dissident Congressmen 
have told Rajiv that Pawar collected 
hundreds of crores through these land 
deals. They allege that he is building 
up a war chest for the time that he 
needs to go it alone. As none of the 
money collected through these deals 
ever made it to Delhi, this explanation 
carries a certain credibility at 10 Jan- 
path. 

And finally, there’s the matter of 
the recent media blitz. Even six 
months ago, Rajiv Gandhi was not 
ill-disposed towards Pawar. He re- 
garded him as an efficient admini.stra- 
tor and let him run Maharashtra pretty 
much as he wanted. Even when there 
were reports that Pawar, Veercndra 
Patil and Chenna Reddy were emerg- 
ing as the party's new Syndicate, he 
refused to be perturbed. (Though, in a 
matter of months, both Chenna Red- 
dy and Patil were axed.) 

But from the time that Chandra 
Shekhar launched his bid to topple 
V.P. Singh, Pawar seems to have 
taken a conscious decision to go 
national. He hung around Delhi, re- 
layed messages within the various 
camps and took care to cultivate the 
national media. 

This courtship of the press has now 
yielded results in the form of exclusive 


PAWAR AND THE GLORY ■ Rise or fall? 



Sharad Pawar Ajlrays himself as the His friends say that he played a key role So, could Pawar break the Congress and 
only Congress' wtef minister with a in making Chandra Shekhar the Prime strike out on his own? That is the big 

formidable base of his own Minister question 


\ 


40 


BUNDAY 30 DMwnbar 1000-6 January 1001 






Will Rajiv topple 
Pawar? In the 
present 

circumstances, he 
may regard it as 
simpler to merely 
rap Pawar on the 
knuckles to push 
him back into the 
line 


interviews and cover stories that cast 
him as the party’s king-maker and a 
rival power centre to Rajiv Gandhi. 
Pawar’s men say that while the chief 
minister may have cooperated with 
the journalists who wrote the stories 
(most feature interviews), the inter- 
pretations are those of the media. And 
certainly, in nearly every interview, 
each time a ludicrously flattering ques- 
tion is thrown at him, the chief minis- 
ter is suitably modest and humble. 

Nevertheless, the feeling per.si.sts at 


10 Janpath that Pawar has engineered 
this publicity. The anti-Pawar scenario 
is ironically one that the laudatory 
media themselves have been articulat- 
ing* ii is a time of political instability. 
New groupings are emerging. Why 
shouldn't Pawar break the Congress, 
cause a major realignment in Indian 
politics and emerge as the boss? 

To the media, that’s informed spe- 
culation. To the Congress high com- 
mand, that’s treachery. 

Two other factors come into play 


while deciding Pawar's fate. The 
first is Dhirubhai Ambani. It is no 
secret that the Reliance chief loathes 
and distrusts Pawar though, from time 
to time, he makes conciliatory noises 
and assures the chief minister of his 
goodwill. 

Now, fearing that Pawar is on the 
verge of making a bid for national 
stature, Ambani seems to have de- 
cided to ensure that not only is Pawar 
confined to Bombay but that, if possi- 
ble, he loses the chief ministership as 
well. 

While there can be no underesti- 
mating Reliance’s influence both with- 
in the government and with the Con- 
gress(I), Rajiv Gandhi has been keen 
to avoid giving the impression that he 
is unduly swayed by Ambani. Howev- 
er, this time, there is a certain mutual- 
ity of interest. Just as Ambani is fear- 
ful of Pawar's ambition, so is Rajiv. 

The Maharashtra chief minister’s 
men have told the press, and Pawar 
himself is believed to have told Rajiv, 
that Reliance is determined to inter- 
fere in the politics of Maharashtra. In 
normal circumstances, the invocation 
of the Ambani name would have been 
enough to put Rajiv on his guard. But 
this lime, things may have gone too far 
for that. 

The second key figure in Pawar's 
life is Bal Thackeray, senapali of the 
Shiv Sena. Thackeray and Pawar 
share a strange relationship. When 
Pawar was appointed chief minister of 
Maharashtra, one of the key argu- 
ments in his favour was that he alone 
would be able to control the Shiv 
Sena, which w^as then rapidly expand- 
ing its influence in the state.' 



Pawar’s friends say that Dhirubhai 
Ambani is spreading stories about his 
disloyalty to Rajiv 


But if Rajiv dropped Pawar. could he link 
up With Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and 
stay on as CM? 


Despite his misgivings, Rajiv Gandhi 
might decide that it is better to live with 
Pawar than to destabilise Maharashtra 


SUNDAY 30 December 1000—5 Jenuary 1001 


41 



ANALYSIS 


In the event, Pawar failed to halt 
the Sena’s rise. At the Assembly elec- 
tion earlier this year, the Sena-BJP 
alliance performed well enough to 
deny the Congress a majority though 
Pawar rnfmaged to retain office by 
winning the support of Independents. 
Since then, Thackeray and Pawar 
have grown closer. 

In the context of Indian politics, 
Thackeray fits into no slot. He is the 
Congress’ principal rival in Maharash- 
tra but appears to venerate the Gan- 
dhi family. When Amitabh Bachchan, 
Rajiv Gandhi’s best friend, was down 
and out, only Thackeray stuck by him 
threatening to give a fitting reply to 
anybody who tried to stop the release 
of his movies. When V.P. Singh be- 
came Prime Minister, Thackeray 


More meetings followed and the 
edge was taken off Pawar’s hostility. 
Now, it is widely believed that though 
the Sena and the Congress both call 
each other names in the political are- 
na, Pawar and Thackeray share a far 
cosier relationship than either will 
openly acknowledge. For instance, 
Pawar is pressing for elections to the 
Bombay Municipal Corporation even 
though the local Congress unit would 
prefer a delay. The Shiv Sena is re- 
garded as certain to win these elec- 
tions, so Pawar will kill two birds with 
one stone: please his new friend 
Thackeray and finish off his rivals . 

Thackeray’s role will be crucial in 
the coming months. If the Congress(I) 
attempts to destabilise Pawar, then he 
can split the party: there’s no doubt 


Nevertheless, the fear that Pawar 
might repeat history, topple a Con- 
gress government and link up with his 
erstwhile opponents, haunts the anti- 
Pawar brigade. 

But will Rajiv topple Pawar? In 
Bombay, thev say only half-joking, 
that the high command is waiting for 
riots in Bhiwandi so it can use the Patil 
and Reddy precedents to show Pawar 
the door. Among Congressmen, there 
is little doubt that the party president 
IS getting increasingly disenchanted 
with his best-known chief minister. 

Of course, this does not necessarily 
mean that Rajiv Gandhi will get rid of 
Pawar. It seems probable if not certain 
that there will be a parliamentary elec- 
tion next year. Already, there are 
those who believe that Congress sup- 



During the Prime 
Minister’s (seen 
here with Morar ji 
Desai) first visit to 
Bombay, Pawar 
stuck so ciose to 
him and arranged 
such an extensive 
series of 

engagements that 
Chandra Shekhar 
was cieariy peeved 


made his objections to him public and 
openly declared that he believed that 
Dhirubhai Ambani was being nee- 
dlessly victimised. 

While Thackeray is not, by nature, 
anti-Congress, he has consistently 
fought battles with Congress chief 
ministers. During the Emergency, 
Shankar Rao Chavan closed down his 
press and arrested his followers. But 
during the Janata period, when Indira 
Gandhi was arrested, it was Thack- 
eray who arranged a Bombay b a n d h 
His explanation: Vasantdada Patil had 
replaced Chavan as chief minister and 
so his battle with the Congress was at 
an end. 

Shortly after Pawar became chief 
minister he talked tough about the 
Shiv Sena. Then a meeting was 
arranged between Thackeray and him 
by Manohar Joshi, a former ShivStea 
mayor of Bombay. 


that over a third of the MLAs will 
come with him. Next, he can link up 
with the Shiv Sena, command a major- 
ity in the Assembly and continue as 
chief minister. 

If this sounds far-fetched, remem- 
ber that he has done it once before. 
During the Janata period, Pawar 
broke with mentor Y.B. Chavan, de- 
fected from Vasantdada Patil’s Con- 
gress government, took the support of 
the Janata Party, formed the Progres- 
sive Democratic Front and became 
chief minister. 

Could he do it again? 

A ll this, of course, is in the realm of 
speculation. While Thackeray has 
grown closer to Pawar, he is also 
friends with many of those who 
oppose the chief minister. Nor is it 
clear that his Sena will accept Pawar as 
the boss in the event of any alliance. 


port in Karnataka and Andhra 
Pradesh has dipped dramatically fol- 
lowing the exit of the chief ministers. 
The same could easily happen in 
Maharashtra if Pawar is fired. 

In the circumstances, Rajiv Gandhi 
may regard it as simpler to merely rap 
Pawar on the knuckles to push him 
back into line. Though the lobbies cla- 
mouring for Pawar’s ouster are for- 
midable, the costs of an upheaval in 
Maharashtra cannot be underesti- 
mated. 

And finally, there’s the Pawar fac- 
tor. Whatever you do to him, he 
seems somehow to land on his feet. 
Will Rajiv lake the risk of creating an 
opponent whose survival skills are 
legendary? Or will he finally decide 
that management is better than dis- 
missal? • 

Godfrey Fermirm/BambrnymndRafiv 
ShMo/Now DeUd 


42 


SUNDAY 30 DMamber 1000-5 January 1001 



The 

reluctant 

minister 

Kamal Morarka revealed 

e says things that politicians should not. A 
year ago when he was appointed treasurer 
of the Janata Dal, the Indian Express 
dismissed him as “an Ambani lobbyist' . 
Kamal Morarka was appalled, “flow can 
I be a lobbyist for anybody when 1 don't have a good 
word to say about anyone?" he demanded. 

llis friends thought he was being too harsh on him- 
self but his enemies- most of whom have been at the 
receiving end of his wit — were surprised by his can- 
dour. And indeed, within the C handra Shekhar camp, 
Morarka has a reputation for telling it like it is and 
shrugging off the sveophancy and hype that has become 
an integral part of the political structure. 

Sometimes, though, his jokes get taken seriously. 
Shortly after Chandra Shekhar was sworn in as Prime 
Minister, reporters asked him to respond to rumours 
that Subramaniam Swamy would be the next finance 
minister. “Is that so?" he asked, laughing. “In that 
case, I might just defect to V.P. Singh." 

It was a throwaway one-liner delivered off-the- 
record but inevitably, it found its way into print. 
Swamy was, naturally enough, (Outraged and a concilia- 
tory Morarka had to assure him that no ill-will had been 
intended. 

But Swamy didn’t become finance minister. 

MORARKA CAN afford to be irreverent because he 
knows that his relationship with C'handia Shekhar is 
too solid to be adversely affected by the jealousy of his 
rivals. 

The son of a wealthy Marwari industrial family, 
Kama! turned left in his youth. This was the time when 
Chandra Shekhar was a rising young socialist and 
Morarka quickly attached himself to the Young Turk. 
While he did not neglect the family business (he ended 
up as chairman of construction giant Ciannon Dunker- 
ley, which is now professionally managed), he main- 
tained an interest in politics. Throughout the Seventies, 
he was Shekhar's most avid supporter in Bombay and 
in the early Eighties, spent more time advancing 
Shekhar’s prospects than he did on running his busi- 
ness. 

While Chandra Shekhar did find him a Rajya Sabha 
seat from Rajasthan (and even then, Morarka got 
elected only because BJP rebels voted for him), he 
seems to have received few favours during this period: 
certainly, as an Opposition politician, Shekhar was 
hardly in a position to dole out patronage. 


And, to be fair. Shekhar did not expect much m 
return. When Morarka backed Behram Contractor in 
I he Afternoon Despatch A ('ourier, the successful 
Bombay evening paper, there were no political sir mgs 
attached. The Afternoon has always treated Shekhar 
with a certain disdain. Moie bizarre is the s,jga of 
Chauthi Duniya, a Hindi weekly Siindav paper" also 
owned by Morarka. When he started it, many people 
thought he was creating a platform for Chandra 
Shekhar in the cow' belt. Instead, the editor Santosh 
Bharatiya turned into a V P. Singh-admiiei and the 
paper’s circulation dipped alarmingly as il became the 
unofficial newsletter of the V.P. Singh tan club 

Morarka’s explanation: “My editors follow' their own 
policies." 

THOUGH HE denies this, the comnuni perception 
within the Shekhar camp is that Moiarka weni into a 
sulk just after his leader became Prime Minister. Till 
then, he had been much in evidence at Souih Avenue 
Lane, briefing the press and paiticijiating in the back- 
room negotiations that led to Chandra Shekhar's eleva- 
tion. 

Then, just as it was all coming logethei , he flew back 
to Bombay. Shekhar was suipnsed but not unduly 
perturbed perhaps Kamal had pressing toinmitments 
in his home town. 

He began to get concerned when Moiaika didn’t turn 
up at the airport to receive him on his fust trip to 

Morarka knows that his relation with 
Chandra Shekhar will not be 
affected by the jealousy of his rivals 

Bombay a couple of days alter he was sworn in. His 
first question on landing at Santa Cru/ wav “Kamal 
nahin aaya '^" 

Morarka did make a brief appearance when Shekhar 
visited the Rit/ Hotel but that was It Nor did he seem 
in any hurry to go to Delhi. Mvxeovei, he made it 
known that he did not want to be a minister 

His f I lends say that this lelicence was tiue to the 
sudden emergence of countless hangeis-on who began 
to flaunt their closeness to the new PM. “Kamal hates 
these people,” says somebodv who knows Moiarka 
well. “And he wanted to have nothing to do with 
them." 

As it turned out, Sliekluir persuaded him to )om the 
ministry and gave him .1 ciucial responsibility minisier 
of state m the Prime Mmisui 's Office. (1 his means that 
he has access to every file meant for the PM.) And 
while Morarka took the job, he has made it a point to 
keep an obsessively low profile. There is no secuiity at 
his house in Teen Murti Lane. He still uses his own car 
(though, not his Mercedes) and when he travels by air, 
he stands in the ‘J’ class queue and checks m like any 
other passenger. Nor does he accompany the PM on his 
tours or insist on being featured on Doortlarshan. 

And yes, he’s much more discreet when he talks to 
the press. He is still not the lobbyist that the Lxpress 
nade him out to be. But equally, it is no longer true 
that he doesn’t have a good word to say .ibout 
anyone. % 



SUNDAY 30 Oecember ie9(>--5Januaiy 1991 


67 


CAPITAL MARKETS 


Taking stock 

The best, the worst and the amazing — the 
1990 equity yearbook 


C razy. There does not seem to be 
any other way to put it. For- 
tunes were made, and undone. 
Prices went up, and crashed almost to 
subterranean levels. Promises were 
made, and broken. At the Indian 
stock markets, it was the year of hope 
and hell, depending on one's point of 
view. 

Trading volumes hit a new high. On 
9 October, for example, the Bombay 
Stock Exchange (BSE) recorded that 
268.68 lakh shares, worth Rs 234.84 
crorcs were traded. An entire genera- 
tion of roadside speculators material- 
ised out of nowhere, and for the three- 
and-a-haif months that the boom 
lasted, they raked it in. In Bombay, 
Delhi, Calcutta, Ahmedabad and else- 
where in the country, capital markets 
signified just one thing: a mint. 

Till the markets burped on 10 Octo- 
ber. From the previous day's high of 
1,603, the BSE sensitive index for 
share prices collapsed to 1,223 within 
a week. (The 1990 low of 659.30 was 
recorded on 8 February.) Later, it 
climbed hesitantly to around 1,400, 
and then dived below 1 ,2(W). Fortunes 
disappeared almost overnight, debit 
notes from stockbrokers to clients got 
longer, and hope was in short supply 
in the market. The Kuwait situation 
did not help much, either. 

The general impression in slock 
market circles is that recession is just 
around the corner. Inflation is going 
to hammer the economy. The law- 
and-ordcr problem in North India has 
resulted in a lower industrial offtake — 
companies are selling less there. On 
top of that, the government is increas- 
ing excise and import duties — on wool 
and wood pulp, on synthetic yarn — in 
an aim to collect almost Rs 3,000 
crores in fresh dues. Railway fare and 
freight cliarges too are expected to go 
up. Bad news for industry. Therefore, 
bad news for the capital markets. 

As of last week, the BSE index was 
; lowei still, below 1,100. 

Hut indices apart, stock markets are 
; also about sharp scrips, or short- 


changing ones. Of star issues, and ill- 
starred ones. And phenomenons. 
What follows is a review of the best, 
the worst and the amazing — the 1990 
equity yearbook: 

THE RIGHT-INTO-ORBIT STOCK: 

Easily Associated Cement Cos 
(ACC), run by.Nani Palkhivala. From 
the 5 February low of Rs 320 (on par 
value of a share at Rs 100) recorded in 
Calcutta, the stock weht through the 
roof and straight into orbit. On 7 
November, ACC was selling for Rs 
2,625, over eight times the February 
level. 

Nobody gave it a chance initially, 
which partly explains why the share 
appreciated so swiftly. ACC was 
heavily ‘shorted’ (from the market jar- 
gon ‘short-selling’, which means sell- 


ing a particular share at higher prices, 
only to buy back at a lower price, 
collecting the difference as profit) 
once it began moving above Rs 500. 
The feeling was kahaan jayega, it has 
to come down. It did not. Backed by 
an improving cement industry picture, 
it rapidly went through Rs 600, Rs 
1,000 and then, Rs 1,500. 

That is when the short-sellers 
panicked. They had sold ACC shares 
without owning them — they did not 
actually have the share certificates in 
hand — at ridiculously low prices. 
Now, they rushed to buy them back to 
limit the extent of their losses. This, 
combined with the fact that the clever 
crowd was still buying ACC, made the 
share zoom up further. (The joke in 
the market circles was that the ACC 
share was the most hotly pursued prize 
ever since filmstar Rekha decided to 
get married. But that is another 
story.) This one scrip was responsible 
for turning the market sentiment in 
June from hesitant to aggressive. If 
there was one stock that pulled the 
entire string of equities, it was ACC. 

Last week, reflecting the general 
depression in the stock markets, ACC 
was selling at the Rs 1,650 level, more 
humble and down-to-earth. No mat- 
ter. ACC was already legend. 


Th e general 
impression in 
stock market 
circles is that 
recession is just 
around the 
corner and 
inflation is 
going to 
hammer the 
economy. Bad 
news for the 
. market 


SUNDAY 30 OMtmber 1M(K-6 January 1M1 



THE PICK-ME-UP STOCK: 

The Cement Corp. of Gujarat share 
was quoting at a measly Rs four in 
May. Then a Bombay financial weekly 
published an article saying that the 
Junagarh, Gujarat-based company, 
with a planned project worth Rs 170 
crores, had a market capitalisation of 
around Rs 15 crores. In other words, if 
one picked up the company's entire 
equity for Rs 17 crores or so, one 
could inherit vast assets at a throw- 
away price. 

This is when the Cement Corp. 
stock began to climb, appreciating by 
more than 12 times to end up at Rs 50 
by June. 

Assuming a buyer had picked up 
shares worth Rs 20,000 during the low 
season, his portfolio's worth would 
have sky-rocketed to more than Rs 2.4 
lakhs at the June peak. It is a bit late 
for a windfall, though. Last week, the 
scrip was quoting at Rs 20. Modest, 
not mind-boggling. 


THE ftIGGEST-PARTY-POOPER 
STOCK: 

Mysore Cement. This Bangalore- 
based company run by the Sudershan 
Kumar Birla Group was expected to 
report staggering prohts for the first- 





ACC’s Nani Palkhivala: his company led the stock market boom 


half of the 1990-91 financial year. 

Instead, it scraped together a loss of 
Rs 2.98 crores. 

For Mysore Cement, the question 
was not really about how well its 
shares were doing in the market but 
how, in the middle of a boom in the 
cement industry, did it report a loss? 
Especially when most other cement 
companies were reporting eye- 
popping bottomlines? The company's 
answer: because of a fire at one of its j 
plants at Amassandra, Karnataka. 
The stock market sympathised, but it 
was interested only in profiteering. 
This was not quite the time for looking 
ahead at better second-half results. 
For those who are interested a Mysore 
Cement share, on a Rs 10 par value, 
was selling in the Rs 40 region last 
week, as against the 1990 high of Rs 
82. A comparison with an ACC 
share — even in its depressed state — is 
telling enough. 

THE DUST-TO-DUST STOCK: 

Wartsila Diesel. This New Delhi- 
based company, promoted by Sha- 
poorji Pallonji, was quoting at Rs 29 
in early 1990, its lowest for the year. 
Then, market wise-men began moving 
in — a Rs 16 lakh net profit for the first 
year of operation (actually, for a few 
months, as operations commenced 
late) was interpreted as a *buy’ signal. 
Besides, with the countrywide power 
outlook worsening, it was assumed 
that Wartsila, which manufactures 
diesel generators, would be making a 
killing. And the sltock jumped up to 
Rs iS) (Rs 10 par value). Then came 


the results for the fii.st-half — April- 
Seplember — of the 1^90-91 financial 
year. 

For this period, Wartsila posted a 
net loss of Rs 90 lakhs The optimists 
ran for cover, and the stock was selling 
last week in the Rs 60-70 langc. 

THE FAR-TOO-MUCH STOCK: 

There are two ways to settle this 
argument about the most expensive 
stock on the market. One the com- 
pany with the highest pricc-to- 
earnings ratio. And two: the company 
with the highest par value multiple, 
which basically means how much more 
than its par value the share went for. 

If the; second yardstick is con.si- 
dered, then Kalyani Steels wins hands 
down. The Pune-based company’s 
.shares were traded at Rs 925 on a par 
value of Rs It) per share, at the share 
boom's peak. Or, at 92.5 limes its par 
value. Last week, it was down to 34 
times, or around Rs 340 per share. But 
still good. 

THE l-LOVE-YOU-TOO STOCK: 

Dhunseri Tea, was being quoted at 
around Rs 180 a share in the market 
when the Calcutta-based company, 
run by S.L. Dhanuka, entered the 
market earlier in December with a Rs 
90 lakh rights i.ssue foi its shaiehol 
ders. 

Normally, company scrips trading 
as high as Dhunseri's can — and di> - 
command a rights issue premium ot Rs 
50-70 on the share’s par value, in this 
case, Rs 10. But Dhunseri surprised its 
shareholders by issuing the rights 





BUSINESS 


offering at par — no premium. 
Perhaps, this generosity will help 
bring the company future investors, 
the sort who bank on dividends, at 
least. Because last week, the scrip was 
hoveriiig around Rs 115. 

THE FLIM-FLAM-FLOP ISSUE: 

The Lokhandwala Real Estate Par- 
ticipation Scheme. Under the scheme, 
the promoters — who are neck-deep in 
controversy over a real estate develop- 
ment project in Bombay- offered 
subscribers a chance to ‘purchase’ ten 
square feet of residential space 
through a participation certificate with 
a face-value of Rs 7,500. The subscri- 


ber, so went the spiel, would also get 
14 per cent a year interest on the 
market value of the certificate. 
Assuming, of course, the appreciation 
of real estate values. 

I'hc promoters ended up receiving 
only a sixth of the Rs 24 crores they 
had planned on hooking. And the out- 
fit promised to refund the amount to 
those who had already subscribed, 
conceding failure. The issue, intended 
to be a pace-setter, bombed. 

THE SUNNIEST-SIDE-UP ISSUE: 

Birla Kennametal, which went pub- 
lic on 9 July set a record of sorts by 
being oversubscribed 193 times. The 


Saddam Hussein: finally creating Indian stock market panic 

I ' ' ' I I •wm iii r-- - I — i 1 



company offered 3.60 lakh shares (par 
value: Rs 10) to finance a Rs 6.89 
crore project to manufacture tool hol- 
ders. 

Kennametal belongs to the Ashok 
Birla Group, which after the indus- 
trialist’s tragic death in the Bangalore 
Airbus crash last February, is being 
managed by son Yashovardhan, and 
overseen by cousin Aditya Birla. 
Strong enough, it appears, to have 
pulled in the crowd. 

THE NOW-YOU-SEE-ME-NOW- 
YOU-DONT PHENOMENON: 

Vitro Pharma, a Bombay-based 
drugs and pharmaceuticals manufac- 
turer, invited subscription for a Rs 
2.10 crores rights convertible deben- 
ture issue in 1989. Fine. 

This year. Vitro did a disappearing 
act. According to a mid-October re- 
port in the Business Standard, a Cal- 
cutta-based financial daily, excess sub- 
scriptions have not been returned . and 
debenture allottees have not received 
their certificates. The company has 
skipped interest payments on deben- 
tures as well as deposits. 

Some more. Vitro’s factory at the 
Kandivli (West) Industrial Estate in 
Bombay, is closed. Most company 
directors have quit. The management 
is untraceable. Fortunately, the share 
is not, and was quoted at Rs 1 1 , one 
rupee over par, last week. Good luck. 


THE HAVE-A-NICE-DAY 
PHENOMENON: 

On 16 October, Dinesh Bhalotia 
wore a wig and walked into the trading 
at the Calcutta Stock Exchange. And 
made a bid to buy 5,000 shares of 
ACC in one shot. A representative 
from Pannalal Kcjriwal, a respected 
brokerage firm, sold Bhalotia the en- 
tire lot at Rs 2,375 a share, or Rs 1.18 
crores worth. 

The thing is, Bhalotia was an im- 
poster, posing as a broker’s assistant. 
After netting the ACC shares, Bhalo- 
tia left the ring, but returned to pick 
up a huge block of ITC Ltd shares. 
That is when the ringers got suspi- 
cious, questioned his credentials and, 
discovered the fraud. In the panic — 
fortunately, short-lived — that folr 
lowed, ACC slid to Rs 2,300. 

Bhalotia was sent to the slammer. 
But if he had got aw|ty, and waited till 
ACC rose to the Rs 2,600 level — as it 
did three weeks later — and sold off the 
bunch, Bhalotia would have made a 
cool profit of Rs 11.25 lakhs! • 

MudarPMmrya/Bombayf NewDeHU 
andCahuHa 


SUNDAY 30 December }B90-5 Jenuary 1901 






BUSINESS 



SHIPPING/BAILOUT 

Save 

our 

souls 

The Scindia Steam 
Navigation Co. has been 
screaming the litany for 
years, but the government 
may have had enough 


T he time, trade circles say, has 
finally come for the Scindia 
Steam Navigation Co. to aban- 
don ship, close shop and call it a day. 
Because as things stand, ‘beyond rede- 
mption’ may be too soft a phrase for 
the once-pioneering company. 

Over the years Scindia has piled up 
a huge debt. Now, its capital base is 
wiped out, and losses are conserva- 
tively placed at Rs 1 10 crores by ship- 
ping industry experts, both from the 
private sector and the government. 
The government is upset about the 
fact that the Rs 150 crores it had given 
the company as part of a rehabilitation 
package a couple of years ago has 
produced zero results. And has indi- 
cated that it will not pump in any more 
money. 

Add to this the following facts: 
bunker charges — for berthing and ser- 
vicing a ship, which varies from port to 
port — have gone up by 50 per cent 
everywhere. Fuel costs have risen, and 
are likely to rise still further if the Gulf 
crisis persists and the Organisation ot 
Petroleum Exporting Countries de- 
cides to cash in on a demand-supply 
madness. But freight rates have re- 
mained more or less the same. For 
example, the present rate of charter 
for carrying dry cargo is US $ 1,300 
(approx. Rs 23,400) a day. And could 
fall, if global recession sets in and 
potential customers cry off. “Statistics 
clearly show that it is not profitable to 
run a company like Scindia,” says 
Vasant Sheth, chairman of Great 
Eastern Shipping, a private line that 
notched up pre-tax profits of Rs 19.32 

SUNDAY 30 December 199&~S Januaiy 1991 


crores for the first six months ot the 
1990-91 financial year. “The sensible, 
logical and rational thing would be to 
close it down.” 

Nobody, however, is doing that. In- 
stead, Scindia is fighting the very 
agency that tried to keep it afloat, the 
Shipping Credit and investment Corp. 
of India (SCICI). 

The SCICI started looking into how 
Scindia could be turned aiound after 
the government took over the Morarji 
family-held concern in 1987. Among 
other things, it suggested a rehabilita- 
tion package that called for scaling 
down of outstanding loans — Rs 64 
crores worth — to the 1987 market 
value of the company’s ships, and con- 
verting the Rs 46 crores in remaining 
loans into zero-rated bonds. (Zero 
bonds do not carry any interest, and 
are issued at a discount to their face 
value. The return is the gain the bond 
makes between the date of purchase 
and maturity.) 


Xoday Scindia ’s 
capital base is wiped 
out, and losses are 
conservatively placed at 
Rs 110 crores 



Besides, the government agency 
also suggested converting interest pay- 
ments due into subordinate loans, 
which basically meant that Scindia 
would have got some breathing space. 
The SCICI and its chief executive S.C. 
Singhal, also suggested that Scindia 
sell off a Bombay real estate holding, 
which would fetch Rs eight crores in 
the market. 

No way, said the Scindia manage- 
ment, spearheaded by V M. Parikh, 
its managing director. The proposals 
were inadequate, they said, more con- 
cessions were required. Stalemate. 

Three years later, the stand has not 
changed. Only, the SCICI has backed 
out of the whole deal and has recom- 
mended that the company be sold off. 
Next month, a ministerial committee 
of the Union surface transpoit minis- 
try will convene to decide Scindia’s 
fate. (A scheduled November meeting 
had to be cancelled when V.P. Singh j 
resigned as Prime Minister.) “If given 
time and assistance,” says a senior 
Scindia executive who declines to be 
identified, like all company officials 
interviewed for this article, ‘T am sure 
the company will make profits.” He 
adds: “We are watching *£he . Giilf 
situation closely, and we are planning 
our moves.” 

M oves arc something that Scindia 
has never made very well. In 
fact, the company seems to be totally 
out of its depth. 

For example, the company had its 
own workshop at Bombay’s Mazagaon 
dockyards. But when it came to re- 

71 


BUSINESS 


pairing a ship — whether for a minor or 
major complaint -in its fleet, Scindia 
sent it to an overseas repairing facility. 
Crores of rupees were lost. 

Another example. When every 
shipping line went in for specialised 
tonnage, or mixing their fleet with say 
ore and oil carriers or passenger liners 
and container ships, Scindia stuck to 
carrying general cargo on all its ships, 
now down to 13 from 48 in a span of 35 
years. Economics was thrown over- 
board. Till today, Scindia has just one 
vessel which partly carries containers. 

Nobody denies that the shipping in- 
dustry is passing through one of its 
worst ever slumps. But Indian com- 
panies, Great Eastern, Essar, Chow- 
gule and Varun Shipping, among 


some hard knocks — and lines have 
started taking proper care of their ves- 
sels. Not Scindia. Even the govern- 
ment would not mind, says a senior 
bureaucrat in New Delhi, scrapping 
them, or selling them at throwaway 
prices. (Great Eastern and Essar had 
once looked forward to picking up 
Scindia assets — at least the real estate 
if not its ships — but the government's 
1987 plans, when the finance ministry 
agieed to release Rs 150 crores as 
Scindia aid, took care of that.) 

W alchand Hirachand would have 
been appalled at the mess Scin- 
dia is in today. The late Walchand, 
who founded the line in 1919, is consi- 
dered to be a pioneer of the Indian 



Great Eastern’s chairman Vasant Sheth: “statistics clearly 
show that it is not profitable to run a company like Scindia” 


others, have stayed afloat by cutting 
costs, changing with the times (now, 
the trend is to go in for container 
vessels) and sometimes, innovation. 
For example. Great Eastern decided 
to tramp. Simply, it meant that if a 
ship had no scheduled cargo trip to 
make, it would search out cargo — in 
much the same way a taxi driver 
cruises, looking for a fare — in ports at 
home and abroad. It was a calculated 
risk, and it worked. 

Customers are also getting extreme- 
ly finicky about ships they charter for 
cargo, and it is not unusual to hear of 
cargo owners flying executives down 
to a port to check a ship out. This is 
true specially for Indian ships — India's 
reputation forjmftintenance has taken 


dL. .. 


shipping industry. He started out with 
a hospital ship that belonged to the 
Maharaja of Gwalior — hence, the 
Scindia tag. Walchand tied up with 
Narottam Morarji who looked after 
the management. 

Just after Independence, things be- 
gan to go wrong. Walchand had differ- 
ences of opinion with Sumati, Narot- 
tam's widow. Disgusted, Walchand 
sold off his shares in Scindia to the 
Morarji family in 1950. The beginning 
of the end, as it were. After the own- 
ership shift, Scindia consistently 
stayed blind to the industry goings on, 
compounding errors with more errors. 

This certainly accounts for the 
financial morass Scindia is stuck in, 


admit even company officials. But iro- 
nically, it was the SCICI which sug- 
gested measures which were imprac- 
tical by any standard. And, promised 
sky-high results. It made a grandiose 
pledge that in five years, from 1988, 
Scindia would emerge as a profit ear- 
ner. And by 1994-95, said the agency, 
Scindia would show a hefty Rs 12 
crores in profits. 

To get things going, the government 
appointed its own nominees on the 
Scindia board in 1989, Parikh for one. 
(Sumati Morarji is still on the board.) 
In 1988, the company kicked off a 
golden handshake scheme to pre- 
maturely retire excess staff, and even 
made fleet captains take a 30 per cent 
pay cut. Parikh also proposed a joint 
venture for container services with the 
Shipping Corp. of India (SCI) and In- 
dia Steamship Co. Ltd. Nothing hap- 
pened, as not many companies want to 
be associated with Scindia. 

The limping line did notch up a 
profit of Rs 1.6 crores for the year- 
ended March 1990, but promptly nulli- 
fied it by posting a Rs 1 .7 crorc loss for 
the six-month period ending Septem- 
ber this year. Company and SClCl 
officials flatly refused to elaborate, 
when Sunday questioned them about 
what went wrong. Industry observers, 
however, say the case is simply one of 
very bad management. 

Perhaps unnerved by all the prob- 
lems, New Delhi appears to be ex- 
tremely hesitant about clearing any- 
thing — except dumping Scindia clear 
into the sea — that the board has prop- 
osed. For example, 20 months ago, 
the Scindia board put forward a prop- 
osal to buy four ships at a cost of Rs 96 
crores. The money would have to 
come from the government, which had 
already provided a lot of money, but 
the board argued that the expansion 
was necessary if Scindia were to be 
turned around. 

Twenty months later, the request is 
still stuck. The government has made 
no official statement that it will stop 
helping Scindia out, but in shipping 
circles, it is felt that the government 
has had enough. Mainly, because the 
government does not have any money, 
either. 

The January ministerial level meet- 
ing will be crucial for Scindia's exist- 
ence. But as of now, nobody really 
knows whether the meeting will be 
held, and what the likely outcome is 
going to be. Perhaps, Prime Minister 
Chandra Shekhar will have the last 
word. • 

Godfrey Porelra/Bomboy 


72 


SUNDAY 30 DMember 1990—5 January 1991 



BUSINESS 


0IL7EDIBLE OIL 

Coco 

loco? 

Kerala is incensed over the 
Centre's decision to 
import coconut oil 



C oconut, its oil, its husk and 
leaves from the trees. Keralites 
live on them, thrive on them 
and when they cannnot get enough, 
they get mad. They are mad now. But 
the 'thing is, it is not because of too 
little, but too much of a good thing. 

Last week, the ( entral government 
decided to import coconut oil from Sri 
Lanka. This decision set off a panic in 
Kerala, which provides almost all of 
India's coconut oil needs. Oil prices 
tell and coconut growers fear that if 
the panic persists the new crop due in 
January would be wiped out at the 
market place. 

The Chandra Shekhar government 
claims that the import was visualised 
as an attempt to ease the avialability 
of edible oil and bring down prices. 
(Domestic coconut oil, whether Kera- 
la likes it or not, is more expensive 
than the imported variety.) Keralites 
are not too happy with this reasoning, 
ana their fear perhaps has more to do 
with the cumulative effect oil imports 
f will have on the entire coconut indus- 
try than the Centre’s specific purpose 
to try and reduce prices. “The decision 
to import coconut oil,” says Kailash 
Gupta, president of the Cochin Oil 
Merchants’ Association, “will prove 
extremely damaging to coconut far- 
mers and affect the economy of the 
state.” 

Unnerved, the Kerala Assembly — 
for once, cutting across party lines — 
urged the Centre to cancel coconut oil 
imports. Bringing in oil, said legisla- 
tors, would cripple the state’s eco- 
nomy which has already taken a bad 
knocking with earnings from Kuwait- 
based Malayalces down to zero. Chief 
minister E.K. Nayanar argued that 
coconut was cultivated in 30 per cent 
of the cropped area of the state, and a 
drop in prices would ruin the eco- 
nomy. Again, for once, Nayanar’s 

SUNDAY 30 December 1990—5 January 1991 


point of view was unanimously 
accepted by the members of the Kera- 
la Assembly. A one rupee drop in 
prices, say legislators, would mean a 
loss of R{i 4()0 crores for the state. 

Also, goes the refrain, what does 
New Delhi know about coconuts any- 
way. In Kerala, people cook in coco- 
nut oil, and the leaves of the trees are 
used as thatch for the huts of the 
poor. Coir, the traditional state indus- 
try, depends on coconut husks. Even 
toddy, the local hooch, is made from 
coconuts. The fruits are used as offer-’ 
ings in temples. So, what on earth is 
the Centre doing, importing oil and 
starting off a chain reaction that is 
likely to affect the way Kerala eats and 
lives? 

To bring down prices, is the re- 
sponse. The Sri Lankan coconut oil 
will be available to industrial users at 
Rs 10,000 per tonne, inclusive of 
freight charges, as opposed to Rs 
32,()00 per tonne for domestic oil. A 
good deal, by any standard. And when 
the imported oil hits the market, there 
will not be many takers for the domes- 
tic variety. 

That is precisely the point, say the 
Centre’s policy critics such as Gupta. 
He feels that the decision to import 
coconut oil was taken at the behest of 
the oil lobby in Bombay, which is a 
major centre for soap manufacturing 


and has the maximum number ol in- 
dustrial users. In addition, say Kerala 
observers, is that more than half the 
2,()()0-odd oil mills in the state — which 
supply the soap industry -arc in dan- 
ger of shutting down. This more than 
the bit about people not having anv 
coconut oil to cook with a id thatch to 
cover their roofs -seems to be the real 
reason behind tiie outburst in Kerala. 
Looked at this way, it is simply a case 
of one lobby versus another. 

Besides, all previous governments 
had allowed the import of ctYconut oil. 
The V.P. Singh administration, too. 
But the Raja back-tracked in the face 
of protests — typically, to woo the 
Kerala electorate— and stopped im- 
ports altogether. He even went so far 
as to declare coconut an oilseed and 
therefore, under the purview of the 
national technology missions. Now, 
the Kerala lobby is using precisely this 
argument, to say that once coconut 
has been declared an oilseed, its ex- 
tract cannot be considered an indust- 
rial oil. So, imports should stop. 

The slate even sent a delegation to 
New Delhi to sort things out. I'he 
Centre has promised a review, but 
declared that since only small amounts 
were being imported as stock it was 
hardly likely to affect Kerala's eco- 
nomy. Stalemate • 

Sreedhar Plllay/ Trivandrum 


73 




T here was never any 
doubt that Montck 
Singh Ahluwalia wouldn’t 
last long at the Prime 
Minister’s Office (PMO) 
once Chandra Shekhar 
moved in. But how did he 
end up as commerce 
secretary? 

Answer: Contrary to re- 
ports it was Chandra 
Shekhar’s idea. Once the 
decision to move him out of 
the PMO had been taken, 
the government looked for 
a suitable ministry to place 
him in. Finally, he got land- 
ed with environment. 

Within the Civil Services, 
this is regarded as a punish- 
ment posting but oddly 
enough, it was Maneka 
Gandhi who complained 
saying that she didn’t want 
to have anything to do with 
him. Shekhar then had to 
find a new slot for Ahluwa- 
lia. While he disagrees with 
most of Ahluwalia’s views, 
he still has respect for his 
brilliance as an economist. 
So he thought of another 
economist: Subramaniam 
Swamy. 

Would Swamy take him 
at commerce? Yes, said the 
former Harvard Univeristy 
economics professor, he 
could do with an eco- 
nomist. 

And so far, the arrange- 
ment has worked won- 
derfuly well! 

■ PR Perfect 

P erhaps spurred on by 
the ‘menace’ of a 
free-trade European 
economic community after 
1992 — ^which former Prime 
Minister Margaret 
Thatcher was wary of, and 
successor John Major isn't 
sure of— the UK trade 
lobby is planning to carve 
out its independent share of 
the loot. And make sure 
that the rest of the 
world — outside the British 
Isles and Europe, that 
is — eet the same treatment. 


£\re we all equal now?’^ 

A Bombay-based synthetic textile 
tycoon, wondering whether the 
excise duty hikes on acrylic and 
viscose f Are, nylon and polyester 
filament yarn means that the 
competition is on par with 
Reliance Industries Ltd, 


In 1991, it will be India, 
which has, fortuitously 
enough for the UK, asked 
its businessmen over. 

The UK is being invited 
as the ‘partner country’ for 
the Indian Engineering 
Trade Fair to be held next 


February, a privilege 
accorded to West Germany 
and Italy in previous years. 
But this show, to be 
organised by New 
Delhi-based C onfederation 
of Engineering Industry, 
has a special UK touch the 



Bonny Charlie and Lady Di: the royal sales team 


EVENT OF THE WEEK 


r 


Excise and import duty hikes 

I • The government is desperate lor money. 
And it shows. Last week, (^handra 
Shekhar’s bankrupt government 
announced hikes that are certain to have 
far-reaching impacts on the economy. Or 
at least, set the tone for similar cesses. I'he 

basic and auxilliary customs rates on carpet 

grade wool have been raised from 5 to 10 per cent. For 
other kinds of raw wool, from 25 to 40 per cent. Rayon 
grade wood pulp will attract a 25 per cent rate, from 5 
earlier. And other wood pulp 10, as opposed to 5 per cent. 

But what will really short things out are the excise hikes 
on synthetic fibres. For acrylic fibres, the excise is now Rs 
9.24 a kg, up by Rs 1.74. Viscose fibre is up Rs 2 to Rs 
10.50. Polyester staple fibre up by the same level. Excise 
on Polyester filament yarn is up Rs 15 to Rs 70 for a kg. 

For nylon it’s Rs 63, from Rs 50, and viscose, up Rs 3 to Rs 
12 . 

The effect will also be on companies: Reliance 
Industries Ltd and Bombay Dyeing, to name a few. 
Bottomlines have been growing, but the hikes could knock 
off quite a few crores. On the other hand, is some sort of 
help on the way? 



other countries could never 
hope to match: a royal one. 
Charles, the Prince of 
Wales and his high-profile 
consort. Princess Diana, 
are expected to make an 
appearance. The duo are 
unlikely to do very much at 
the trade fair, except make 
polite noises at the exhibits 
and tell Indians how 
wonderful British products 
are. 

The question is: will 
India clap? Or will she 
bitc?« 

■ Paper player 

T hat’s ITC Ltd for you. 

The Calcutta-based 
cigarette, hotels and paper 
conglomerate (turnover for 
the year-ending March 
1990: Rs 1,827 crores) is 
moving bigtime into the 
paper business. I'hrough 
Bhadrachalam 
Paperboards Ltd (BPL), a 
Rs 102 crore company in 
which ITC plans to increase 
its equity to 40 per cent 
from the current 32.2 per 
cent. ( Vazir Sultan 
Tobacco, the makers of 
Charms brand cigarettes, 
and an associate company, 
holds 7.8 per cent of BPL 
equity.) 

According to corporate 
watchers, BPL is expected 
to tie-up with state-run 
Tamil Nadu New'sprinl Ltd 
(TNNL) for a Rs 900 crore 
project to manufacture 
newsprint and writing 
paper, proposed to be set in 
the Southern state’s South 
Arcot district. Possibly, 
with World Bank help, 
following another TNNL 
project which makes paper 
in Trichy district. BPL 
could end up with a quarter 
stake in the project. 

This looks like ITC 
chairman Jagdish Narain 
Sapru’s valedictory move. 
Sapru has overseen part of 
ITC’s expansion and 
diversification plans over 
the last decade , and has 
managed the consolidation 
of most these moves. What 
better way to bid farewell 
than with a mega tie-up? • 


74 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990—5 January 1991 










NEWS 


The fall in Goa 


The Centre imposes President's Rule following prolonged 
political uncertainty 


l! had to happen, 
sooner or later. Fhe 
marriage ot conveni- 
cnce just wouldn't 
work and tinally 
broke on 14 r3eeem- 
ber. 7'he Progressive 
Democratic Front 
(PDF), a coalition 
formed by the Maharashtiawadi 
Gomantak Parly (MOP) and the 
Goan People s Parly(GPP), collapsed 
as the partners quarrelled over basic 
issues and the Centre imposed Presi> 
dent’s Rule to end the political insta- 
bility that prevailed since mid- 
November. 

Political observers were sceptical 
about the PDF's late even as it was 
being formed in March. The arrange- 
ment was not based on principles but 
emerged out of the political chicanery 
of two extremely polar parties For 
instance, the MGP stood for the sup- 
remacy ot Marathi, while the GPP 
fought fiercely to win the official- 
. language status for Konkani. Moreov- 
er, the MGP solely represented the 
Hindus, but the GPP had a sizeable 
Catholic following. 

Nevertheless, the cumous alliance 
was forged on 24 March this year, 
when seven Congress(I) MFAs left 
the party to form the GPP. Fhc new 
parly teamed up with the MC'iP and 
formed the PDF, headed by L.P. Bar- 
bosa of the GPP. The MGP chief, 
Ramakant Khalap, despite his over- 
bearing po.sition in Goan politics, de- 
cided to play the second fiddle, over- 
slaughing the top slot in Borbosa’s 
favour. After all, it was the GPP that 
had made the fall of the Congress(I) 
regime possible. 

But the honeymoon soured before 
long and the fissures started showing. 
The chairmanships of the various gov- 
ernment corporations proved to be the 
PDF’s nemeses. “The appointments 
were not made as per the promise 
made soon after the formation of the 
PDF government. Barbosa only en- 
sured that his men were appointed as 
chairmen of those bodies,” said the 
former deputy chief minister Khalap. 


The animosity between the two 
partners increased over the appoint- 
ment of the chairman of the Planning 
■ and Development Authority (PDA). 
I’hc (iPP wanted a real estate de- 
veloper. ('a)etan Cordeiro, to fill the 
post, ('ordeiro was the architect of the 
MCiP-CiPP coalition and the plump 
job was ti' be his reward. The MGP, 
however, opposed the proposal, 
saying that the GPP already had its 
men heading most of the important 
coiporations. The differences between 
the two parties soon snowballed into a 
major controveisy, resulting in the de- 
cision to sciap the PDA itself. 

But not everyone was happy with 
idea, and Cioan politics took an unex- 
pected turn when MGP MLA Mohan 
Amshekar filed a petition with the 


residences of key ministers to cement 
the differences. But the efforts proved 
futile, and as the political equation 
began to change the Congress(I) got 
into the act. 

The party expressed its interest in 
an alliance with the MGP to outman- 
oeuvre the GPP leaders. State Con- 
grcss(I) bigwigs such as Wilfred 
D’Souza, Pratapsing Rane and Fran- 
cisco Sardinha even airdashed to De- 
lhi to stake their individual claims to 
the chief ministership, which seemed 
near at hand. “The Congress could 
solicit the MGP's support to form the 
government because we have very lit- 
tle ideological differences,” said for- 
mer chief minister Rane. 

The crisis came to a head on 29 
November, when Khalap handed over 





Barbosa, Jhalmi and Khalap; the wreckers 


Speaker, Surendra Sirsat, on 23 
November, seeking the disqualifica- 
tion of the seven GPP members under 
the anti-defection law. Incidentally, 
the Congrcss(T) had made a similar 
demand in March and even filed a 
petit on in the Supreme Court, 
appealing against the action of the re- 
bels. But neither the Speaker nor the 
court had given its ruling. 

The MGP’s ploy was clearly to 
pressure Barbosa into stepping down 
in favour of an MGP candidate. And 
as the crisis deepened, hectic mid- 
night consultations were held at the 


to the Governor a letter in which the 
MGP withdrew its support to Barbo- 
sa. Khalap’s intention was to isolate 
the chief minister in the power strug- 
gle while keeping the ministry intact. 
Barbosa, however, stood his ground, 
frustrating Khalap’s moves and .seek- 
ing channels to return to the Congress 
fold. 

In a dramatic development on 2 De- 
cember Barbosa offered to form a 
government with the Congrcss(I), 
along with two rebel MGP MLAs, if 
the Congress supported him in the 
vote of confidence. Not to be out- 



GOA 


SUNDAY 30 Oecsmber 1990-5 January 1991 


75 







NEWS 


done, Khalap formally announced the 
withdrawal of the MG P’s support to 
the PDF and slaked his claim to form 
a new ministry on 4 December. 
Around this time, however, the poli- 
tical scenario turned bizarre. River 
navigation ml^l^ter Ratnakar 
Chopedkar and Shambu Bandekar, 
both of the MCiP, mysteriously dis- 
appeared after refusing to go along 
with the MGP. I,ater, they were sight- 
ed in a Bombay hotel: apparently they 
were visiting various temples and 
praying tor the survival of the PDF 
ministry! But the possibilities of a 
popular government remaining in 
power receded on 13 December when 
Speaker Sirsat disqualified the two 
MGP dissidents. 

But Bandekar and (’hopedkai re- 
taliated by filing a petition in the divi- 
sion bench of the Bombay High C’ourt 
in Panjim and obtaining a stay order 
against the Speaker's ruling. The row 
now acquired an altogether new 
dimension with the legislature con- 
fronting the judicial y. And adding to 
the complexities was an in-Housc peti- 
tion, filed by Congressman Lui/inho 
Faleiro in March, which was acted 
upon by the law minister, Kashinath 
Jhalmi, who was elected by the House 
to decide the issue. Faleiro had sought 
the disqualification of chief ministei 
Barbosa on the ground that he had 
held the post of Speaker and chief 
minister simultaneously when the re- 
bel Congressmen “defected” m March 
this year. Fxpectedly, tlie decision 
went against Barbosa and he was dis- 
qualified on 14 December. Three days 
later, on 17 December, he challenged 
Jhalmi 's verdict in court. 

With the fortunes of the various 
contenders swinging to and fro and 
none of the parties proving capable of 
mustering the needed support in the 
40-memher f louse to form the govern- 
ment, the Centre imposed President's 
Rule on 14 December and placed the 
Assembly in a stale of suspended 
animation. But another storm seemed 
to be building up. The legislature- 
judiciary clash promised to throw up 
interesting constitutional points as Sir- 
sat refused to budge from his position 
despite the court order lestraining him 
from disqualifying the two MGP 
MLAs. “No one can interfere in 
issues that fall within the Speaker's 
purview. I will fight tooth and nail,” 
promised a disgruntled Sirsat. 

Surely, there is going to be more 
than mere sun and sand in Goa in the 
days to come. • 

Bobco De Souza Eremita/Panjfm 


A dressing down 

Militants in Punjab dictate the state's sartorial code 


If you want to stay 
alive in Punjab, don't 
get your hair cut. The 
terrorists have struck 
down a record num- 
ber of people in the 
last one month and 
PUNJAB issued firmans which 
mammmmmtmmmmmm neither the people 
nor the administration dare challenge. 
Every dictate of the Panthic Commit- 
tee is being scrupulously followed and 
even independent-minded young 
Sikhs have chosen to fall in line. 

The committee has decreed that all 
Sikhs who had cut their hair and 
shaved off their beard are to grow 
them again. And young men who once 
rebelled against the custom are now 
back with turbans and stubble cheeks. 
Women too are being put into a 
straight-jacket. Only salwaar kameez 
is permitted with a chiinni (veil) to 
cover their heads. At first, this was 
resented by women in Chandigarh, 
but most have now decided to discard 




Punjab : a no-win situation 


General knowledge 

Governor O.P, Malhotra plans a study-tour 

F ormer chief of army staff 
General (Retd) O.P. Malhotra 
sports a formidably moustache. 

But his terrifying moustachios only 
hide an amiable character, assured 
the general, after being sworn in as 
the new Governor of ^njab on 19 
December. Gen. Malhotra was the 
chief of the army staff for three 
years from June 197^ and was tte 
winner of the pre^ti^us Param , 

Vishi^ht Seva Medal. ’ 

Gen. Malhotra is aware of the 
daunting task that, lies at»ad of 
him. He said his joh would he ' 

to restore the pet^lh^s cimfidence,, 
so diat stability cpuld be ensured ’ MuBwIra: bracing up for battle 
and a congenial atmowhere for the, pei^ a lot from him, Malhotra 
holding of die Asseawly elections., admitted, and promised not to let 
cr^fod. At a dfha dte'miii*' '^wni down, 
hfots have st^fqira m ^eir adtivi* * ; But how vdh he ^ about doing 
ties hi a highway, 'me- people^iEK'.' I '• iMa? Gim; -Maihofra wpuld first 



76 


SUNDAY 30 December 1980—5 January 1991 




NEW9 


their non-traditional dresses. It only 
took a few young men to enter a 
women’s college and manhandle a few 
students clad in jeans and skirts to put 
the city’s women on the defensive. 

The Panthic Committee has also 
prescribed a new uniform for all 
school children: black salwaar, while 
kamecz and orange chunni for girls 


and the same combination of colours 
for boys. Almost all private schools in 
the state — barring a few well-known 
convents — have introduced this uni- 
form. The penalty for disobedience 
can be gory. In the Rajpura sub- 
division of Patiala district, a school 
principal was gunned down for defying 
the committee’s order. 



like to tour the state extensively, he , 
told the press, and judge the situa- 
tion for himself before drawing up 
. any plan of action. The places get- 
ting top priority in this tour were 
Amritsar and the border areas 
where he would be holding exten- 
sive discussions with civil and 
police officials to understand the 
mood prevailing in the administra- 
^en asked to comment on 
the d^^yment of the army in cer- 
tain districts of Punjab^ Gen;; 
Malhotra did not ^ve a categorical 
rqriy, but promised to talk to the 
authorities concerned to find oat 
the nature of Ae move. 

Suitiiy^ it will take the new^Oov^ : 
emor some time to abltle dpwii. 
Aud it is kit to he se^n yvhellief be, : 


The militants are also influencing 
the state's language policy. The man- 
ner in which the state administration is 
trying to popularise Punjabi proves 
how it has been made to cower before 
the dictates of the militants. 1’hc lan- 
guage had never been scientifically 
promoted in the past, but of late all 
press releases are appearing in Pun- 
jabi alone. Signboards in government 
offices are also being changed and 
official subscription to Hindi papers 
has virtually stopped. 

The gunning down of R.K. Talib, 
station director of All India Radio, 
Chandigarh, has struck terror among 
mediapersons and the local English 
dailies are faithfully following the 
code prescribed by the militants. In 
the rural areas, the Khalislanis have 
set up parallel courts which are effec- 
tively sorting out social and economic 
problems. They settle dowry cases, 
and land and property disputes with 
almost no delay. The militants are also 
getting busy with public hygiene. They 
have ordered all sarpamhs to keep 
their villages . 

So now the people have a question: 
who exactly runs Punjab today? • 

Re9lwm Saxegm/Chgndlgarh 



DELHI 


Do not open 
cupboard 

The Centre still bars 
Amnesty from Punjab 
and Kashmir 


Even as a new open- 
ness sweeps mueh of 
the world, India has 
onee again refused to 
respond to Amnesty 
Internalional’s pleas 
that Its rescareh 
teams be allowed 
into Punjab and Jam- 
mu and Kashmir. Last week, an 
Amnesty International delegation, 
headed by the organisation’s seeret- 
ary-general, Ian Martin, visited New 
Delhi to attend the World C'ongress 
on Human Rights, and also to seek 
meetings with senior government offi- 
cials to further its case. The National 
Front government was the first in ten 
years to announce that Amnesty rep- 
resentatives could visit India for talks 
with officials, but the government fell 
before any firm dates could be fixed. 
The Human Rights Conference pro- 
vided a good opportunity for Amnesty 
to begin lobbying again for entry into 
India. 

“We’ve had useful discussions with 
the Cabinet secretary, who was the 
former home secretary (Naresh Chan- 
dra), and the foreign secretary Much- 
kund Dube\ said Martin. “The poli- 
cy (towards Amnesty) remains in 
effect the same as the previous gov- 
ernment's, but it’s very much our 
desire to have meetings at the ministe-. 
rial level. lt*s a little premature now, 
given that we do not even really know 
who the new government is.” 

The Amne.sty team, which also in- 
cluded Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the vice- 
chairman of its international executive 
committee, and international secretar- 
iat staffer from the India desk . Yvon- 
ne Terlingcn, met politicians 

from different political parties, espe- 
cially the Congress(l) and the BJP, 
which have in recent months attacked 
the human rights organisation. Not 
surprisingly, Rajiv (landhi didn't have 
any time to spare for them; nor did 
Advani. Both leaders had severely 
criticised the V.P. Singh government 
for even considering allowing Amnes- 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990-5 January 1991 


77 






ty’s .research teams access to sensitive 
arel^^ayhig ' it would amount to 
“interierence in the internal matters of 
the state”. And Martin emphasises 
that their visit was precisely to under- 
score the fact that human rights issues 
transcended all borders. “We’ve tried 
to meet people across the political 
spectrum informally, to explain our 
policy, and why we feel it is essential 
that governments cooperate with us in 
our, work.” 

Sources in the Prime Minister’s 
Office are doubtful whether there will 
be any change in the government’s 
policy towards Amnesty. “I'he 
general feeling is that these human 
rights organisations are out to attack 
the Indian government on issues that i 
are too sensitive to allow international | 
interference,” says a senior home 
ministry official. Amnesty officials, 
however, feel that their objective of 
getting the most reliable information, 
that is first-hand information, is only 
hindered because its research teams 
are not given the right access. 

External Affairs minister Vidya- 
Charan Shukla confirms that the new 
government sees no reason to change 
Its policy on Amnesty. “There is an 
agreement which Amnesty has 
accepted, and that agreement stands,” 
he said firmly. When it was pointed 
out to the minister that the organisa- 
tion. had no option but to accept the 
Indian government’s terms, and that 
there was no agreement as such, 
Shukla insisted that Amnesty would 
have to abide by the agreement. He 
also added that there would be no 
review of it until the situation changed 
in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. 

Martin believes that Amnesty will 
be allowed to operate in India. “I'hc 
hopes of Amnesty have generally been 
borne out, sometimes after many 
years^ But certainly the situation in 
India is very much against the general 
trend of our work as more and more 
countries see us as a constructive part 
of international human rights discus- 
sion.” 

Besides the Soviet Union and East- 
ern Europe, Vietnam and Nicaragua 
have opened up to Amnesty. While 
Sri Lanka continues to deny access, 
Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have 
been quite open. “I do think it’s worth 
stressing that even in the worst days of 
martial law in Pakistan, they didn’t 
deny us access.” But judging from the 
present government's attitude, it will 
oe a while before Amnesty sets foot in 
Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. • 

Shinu S U nm /New Demi. 


Communists capitalise 


The LDF banks on V.P. Singh's popularity 



V.P. Singh got a 
hero's welcome dur- 

vvlCjC/iy three-day 

whirlwind tour of 
Kerala. The former 
j L Prime Minister drew 

— -dBCSSkJ large crowds where- 
KEKALA ver he spoke and, 
cutting across party 
lines, the backward classes and Mus- 
lims thronged his meetings. The con- 
stant rhetoric of the Mandal and the 
rnasjid issues went down well with the 
crowds. And Singh played down his 
earlier image as a crusader again.st the 
Congress(I), corruption and the 
Bofors issue— which was always a 
non-starter in the state. So his cam- 
paign managers (read the Marxists) 
went for a change of image. Today, 
Singh has been projected by the ruling 
CPI(M)-led LDF as a “martyr” who 
sacrificed the Prime Ministership for 
the sake of secularism and communal 
amity. And he still remains a symbol 
of value-based politics and the eman- 
cipator of the oppressed classes. 

The accent was on the Mandal issue 
in the backward class stronghold of 
south Kerala, while in the Muslim- 


dominated Malappuram district, it 
was on the Mandir/Masjid row. The 
Congress(l) and Muslim League lead- 
ers of Kerala are greatly worried 
about Singh’s tumultuous receptions, 
especially in Malappuram district. 
Confessed a top Muslim League 
ML A: “No non-Muslim politician has 
been lately as popular among the 
Kerala Muslims as V.P. Singh." 

The ruling LDF mobilised all its 
forces to ensure a great gathering for 
Singh. He is likely to be their biggest 
vote-catcher, the LDF feels, in the 
campaign for the elections to the 
district council elections, scheduled 
for the last week of January. The 
newly-formed councils are a step to- 
wards decentralising power, which 
was a major promise in the LDF 
election manifesto. Marxists realise 
that Singh can help them to make 
inroads into the Muslim vote bank as 
well. And the grand old man of the 
CPI(M), E.M.S. Namboodiripad, 
who has always shunned communal 
parties like the Muslim League and 
the Kerala Congresses, urged the 
minorities to identify their real 
saviours. Top Marxist leaders such as 


78 


SUNDAY 30 Deceenber 1990-5 January 1991 






Namboodiripad and chief minister 
E.K. Nayahar, prominent CPI lead- 
ers, Congress(S) leader K.P. Unnik- 
rishnan and various Janata Dal func- 
tionaries accompanied Singh on his 
nearly 500-kilometre drive from 
Neyyattinkar in the deep south to 



V.P. Singh addressing a rally in Heraia: 
winning hearts 


Calicut in northern Kerala. 

It is obvious that the Marxists are 
trying to ride piggy-back as their 
government's performance has been 
lacklustre. But they also have their 
•differences. Namboodiripad, for inst- 
ance, does not agree with V.P. Singh’s 
views on the Mandal issue. 

Initially, the CPl(M) was not ready 
to take Singh seriously. When Singh 
attended a reception giver, to him by 


The ruling LDF 
mobilised all its forces 
to ensure a great 
gathering for Singh. 
The Marxists feel that 
he is going to be their 
biggest vote-catcher 
in the coming district 
council elections 


the backward classes at Cochin, Nam- 
boodiripad and Nayanar not only 
turned down the invitation but also 
warned partymen against attending 
the meeting. 

The Cochin rally was organised by 
the SNDP Yogam a socialorganisation 
of the Ezhava community whose lead- 
ers are Congress(I) sympathisers. It 
drew huge crowds from the backward 
castes. Opposed by the LDF and the 
Congress(I) alike, it not 
only bolstered Singh's image but also 
established his popularity. It was an 
eye-opener for the CPI(M), which did 
not want Singh to have direcl contact 
with its backward-caste vote bank in 
Kerala. The Marxist leadership, mam- j 
ly consisting of upper-caste men, l 
feared that Singh would erode their 
vote bank. 

On the other hand, the Congress(l) 
and its top leader in Kerala, K 
Karunakaran, are anti-Mandal. 
Moreover, the image ol Rajiv Oandhi 
has also taken a beating following his 
ambiguous stance on the Mandal and 
Masjid issues. Added to that, the RSS 
and BJP have made a tremendous 
impact on the upper-caste Hindus, 
who traditionally voted for the Con- 
gress(l). 

So Namboodiripad, in spite of being 
anti-Mandal, has to go along with 
V.P. Singh because of political consid- 
erations, especially when the backward 
communities in the state are planning 
to come together under one umbrella. 
Singh’s growing following has united 
the A.k. Antony and Karunakaran 
factions of the Congress(l) also. A.K. 
Antony, the KPCC(l) president, has 
agreed m principle to Karunakaran's 
long-standing demand of making an 
Ezhava the state president of Congres- 
s(I). Vakkom Piirushothaman, MP, 
with excellent connections in the 
SNDM. is Karunakaran’s choice for 
the post. 

Meanwhile, A.K. Antony is trying 
to drive a wedge between the anti- 
Mandal E.M.S. Namboodiripad and 
the backward classes in the state. The 
acid test for the political parties in 
Kerala is next month’s district council 
elections. If Singh and the LDF can 
convert the huge crowds who 
thronged their meetings into votes, it 
will provii that Singh has the same 
charisma in Kerala as the late Indira 
Gandhi. Any which way vou look, it is 
an uphill task for the Congrcss(I) in 
Kerala to woo back the backward 
classes and Muslims from Singh’s fold. 

Siwedhar PfUay/THvmHifnim 


The Premier 

>1 , , .j.' 

vanishes 

The Bangladesh PM 
flees to India 

It was not the only 
obvious step for the 
ousted Bangladesh 
Premier. But fearing 
the wrath of pro- 
democracy activists, 
whose agitation I 
brought Ikdown the 1 
r nine-year-old regime • 
Hossain Mohammad 
Ershad, Ka/i Jaffar Ahmed fled Dlia-' 
ka that very night. j 

But he did not take a flight to 'the' 
West or the land route to Burtna,'^ 
whose military ruler might have 
agreed to shelter him. Instead, Jaffar,” 
with his wife, son and daughter 
headed for his native village, Mianba- 
zar, on the border of India’s Tripura 
slate. 

On 8 December, Jaffar crossed into 
the Indian village of Kathalia, banking 
on the sympathy of his one-time 
school chum Maran Ghosh. Ghoshr-a ’ 
timber smuggler and close friend of a ' 
senior minister in the Tripura coalition 
government — agreed to hide Jaffar 
and organise his safe passi ge. For a 
price. 

Jaffar exchanged forty thousand 
Bangladeshi takas for Indian curren- 
cy hired two taxis, and, with 
Ghosh’s son Uttam as escort, drove 
off towards Assam. He was last seen 
at Dolubari, on the AssanvAgartala,, 
road in north Tripura, having lunch in 
a roadside motel. At Dolubari, Jaffar , 
gave up the two taxis, hired a Maruti 
van for his entourage of six and sped 
towards Assam with possibly West 
Bengal in mind. 

Tripura’s security apparatus was 
busy with the visit of President 
Ramaswamy Venkalaraman on that 
day. By the time the story of Jaffar’^ > 
escapade broke — around .13 or 14 
December, possibly thanks to the taxi 
drivers who drove him to Dolubari — 
the Bangladesh premier had vanished. 

Jaffar, who began his career in 
Maulana Bhashani’s National Awumi 
Party, switched allegiances repeated- 
ly, and ended up with Ershad, faces a 
warrant of arrest ■ • 

SubirBhaumik/Agarlala 




>1010101:, 


TRIPURA 
of President 


SUNDAY 30 Dacembar 1980— S January 1991 


79 



MAHESHJETHMALANI 

Justice for none 

The Bofors case gets curiouser and curiouser 


Al least foi a brief 
interregnum till 10 
January, the Sup- 
reme C.our! has 
thwarted an unho- 
ly conspiracy de- 
signed to frustrate 
the investigation 
into the Bofois 
aflair by nipping 
in the bud the 
dangerous charade which Justice 
Chawla so indulgently presided over 
in the Delhi High C ourt. While for the 
time being. Iherefoie, the Ffofors in- 
vestigation has secured a fresh lease of 
life, the proceedings in Justice (.'haw- 
la's couit serve as a depressing remin- 
der of the crippling malaise that has, 
tor a long time now, afflicted the en- 
tire edifice on which our system of 
criminal lustice is founded. 

Hofors IS neither a mere political 
issue as important spokesmen of the 
Congress paity and the incumbent law 
minister would have us believe; nor a 
routine, ordmaiy investigation which 
could be as well investigated by a sub- 
inspector (d |)olice as C'handra 
.Shekhai has publicly opined. It has 
occupied the centre stage of the na- 
tion's politics lor w'cll-nigh foui years 
now, because, citi/ens of this country 
know' that it impinges on several issues 
of nation.il importance. 

F'irstlv, there is the t|uestion of the 
accountability ol all those responsible 
for awaiding the armament contract to 
FJofors llieie is strong ground for 
suspecting that the lole of those per- 
sons was actuated by conupt motives 
rendeiing them liable to punishment' 
under the Prevention of C'oiruption 
Att Ami>ng these peisons is no less a 
figure than Rajiv (iaiulhi himself, who 
was ultimatelv lesponsible for award- 
ing the contiaci to Bofois and who has 
only his meessant pievarication on the 
issue to blame foi the cloud of suspi- 
cion that hangs o\ei his head. Rajiv 
(landhi aspnes, no doubt, to lead the 
natarn again The people have a right 
to know whether he possesses the re- 
quisite credentials of personal integri- 
ty for so prestigious a position. 
wSecondly, there is the question of 


the accountability of senior bureauc- 
rats in the defence ministry and the 
lop brass in the Indian Army. If suspi- 
cions about their ignoble conduct in 
the matter are found to be justified, 
then it is necessary that appropriate 
penal action be taken against them if 
only to ensure that in future the higher 
rungs of our defence establishment are 
corruption-free. And that our armed 
forces obtain the best equipment, so 
that, the security interests of the coun- 
try are not compromised. 

Moreover, citizens of this country 
have become apeu^tomed to regular 
pessimistic pronouncements about the 
state of the nation's economy and, in 
particular, its bankrupt foreign ex- 
change reserves. If the Rs 200 crores 
of Bofors slush funds are stashed away 
in numbered accounts in amenable 
jurisdictions like Switzerland in fore- 
ign currency, it would make eminently 
good sense to persist with an investiga- 
tion that can trace this money and 
secure its return to India. 

Above all, our experiment with con- 
stitutional democracy is on test. The 
CBT under V.P. Singh's regime has 


done the nation proud by the results 
that it has achieved hitherto in 
Switzerland. Will those efforts now be 
frustrated by the devious machina- 
tions of the rich and the powerful? Or, 
will the majesty of the law with an 
impartial investigation as its sword- 
arm, prevail? 

The events that transpired in Justice 
Chawla’s court must be viewed as the 
very pinnacle of cynical attempts by 
rich and powerful offenders to subvert 
the Rule of Law, a feature which in- 
creasingly pervades our criminal 
courts in particular. The accused in 
the Bofors case™all cowards who are 
afraid to appear in Indian courts — 
attempted to hamper investigation in 
the case through obvious proxies. 
There is every reason to believe that 
the moving hand behind the ostensible 
petitioner in court was that of the Hin- 
dujas — the renowned international 
arms peddlers-turned-self-styled phi- 
lanthropists. Accomplices in their sub- 
version were the mysterious owners of 
a corporate shroud called Jubilee Fi- 
nance which was the account holder of 
the Bofors sixth account unearthed by 




80 


•UNDAY 30 Dsoambar 19BO-5 Januwy 1991 



the CBI in Geneva. Their almost 
laughable case was that the FIR filed 
by the CBI in the Bofors case did not 
allege that any offence was commit- 
ted. Their prayer was that the FIR 
should be quashed. Their aim un- 
doubtedly was to obtain an order in 
conformity with their prayers and pre- 
sent it to the Cantonal Court in 
Switzerland. 

Having discovered an'obliging pe- 
titioner and ever-obliging counsel, 
their only task was to locate an oblig- 
ing Judge. Justice Chawla revealed 
himself to be only too eager to per- 
form this role. 

The excessive interest which Justice 
Chawla displayed in hearing the 
Bofors case inspite of other more 
pressing assignments and in the teeth 
of justified press and public outrage at 
his conduct, have been well- 
documented now. These, along with 
his final order, were bound to invite 
the intervention of the Supreme 
Court, 

T he petitioner had three ostensibly 
i nsurmountable hurdles in obtain- 
ing the relief he had prayed for. I irst- 
ly, not being an accused Iverson, 
his right to file the petition was always 
in question. Secondly, the method by 
which the reliefs sought by the peti- 
tioner would normally be granted was 
by way of a petition under Article 226 


If only Chandra 
Shekhar were a 
criminal lawyer, he 
would realise that our 
sorry economic plight 
is largely because an 
offender who has 
adequate resources 
can oribe the 
law-enforcing 
agencies and get off 




The proceedings in Justice 
Chawla’s court serve as a 
reminder of the crippling malaise 
that has afflicted the entire judicial 
system 


Rajiv Gandhi himself was 
ultimately responsible for 
awarding the contract to Bofors: 
his incessant prevarication on the 
issue casts a cloud of supicion 
over his head 


of the Constitution, which necessi- 
tated a hearing by a division bench 
and not a single judge. And thirdly. 
Justice Chawla's tenure as judge was 
to expire during the Supreme Court’s 
Christmas vacation. 

Ill the event, Justice Chawla devised 
an ingenious method of overcoming 
the problems faced by the petitioner. 
On the question of standing, he dis- 
missed the petition but suggested that 
the arguments presented by the peti- 
tioner had moved him sufficiently to 
take suo mow cognisance (i.e., on the 
court’s own motion) of the matter. On 
the obstacles posed by the method of 
granting relief, he purported to act not 
under the writ jurisdiction under the 
Constitution but under the revisional 
and inherent powers vested in a High 
Court by the Criminal Procedure 
Code which could be exercised by a 
single judge. He ignored the difficul- 
ties posed by the fact that the revision- 
al and inherent jurisdiction of a High 
Court disposing criminal matters weie 
merely supervisory powers of a High 
Court designed to correct illegal and 
perverse orders of criminal courts sub- 
ordinate to the High C’ourt. An FIR is 
by no stretch of imagination an order 
of a court; it is a complaint filed by the 
police on the basis of information of a 
cognisable offence received by them 
and filed in court as a formality. 
Chawla also exhibited gross judicial 
indiscipline by refusing to follow well- 
knowij decisions of the Supreme 
Court, laying down that an FIR could 


only be quashed by a petition under 
Article 226 of the Constitution of In- 
dia. And finally, he resolved the prob- 
lem of his imminent retirement by 
directing the CBI and the Union of 
India to show cause “immediately” to 
his suo mow initiative as to why the 
Bofors FIR should not be quashed. 
Remarkably, and lest the Supreme 
Court curtail his proceedings, as it 
ultimately did, he recorded a finding 
that prima Jade he was satisfied that 
the FIR disclosed no offei:ce. In other 
words, a High Court judge assumed a 
jurisdiction which he did not have: to 
take up the cudgels on behalf of offen- 
ders who had not themselves cared to 
file proceedings in court in the matter 
of an offence as grave as the Bofors 
crime. 

But perhaps. Justice Chawla would 
not have been emboldened to do as he 
did, were it not for the patently collu- 
sive conduct of those who represented 
the CBI and the state in Court. Clear- 
ly, these law officers could not have 
been acting without instructions from 
those to whom they were responsible. 
The Bofors accused were fortunate 
not only in their discovery of a willing 
petitioner, counsel and judge but also 
for the personality and proclivities of 
the law and justice minister. Dr Sub- 
ramaniam Swamy. Here was a man 
who combined in himself attributes 
unique for the fulfilment of the aims 
and objectives of the Bofors accused. 
These attributes consisted of an ignor- 
ance of law born out of a lack of legal 


SUNDAY 30 Oscembor 1000-6 January 1001 


81 



DEJURE 






1 

1 

1^4 


The movina hand behind the ostensible petitioner in court 
was that of the Hindujas — the renowned international arms 
peddlers-turned-self-styled philanthropists 


education, a contempt tor justice as 
evidenced by the fraudulent manner in 
which he obtained loans from the Vi- 
jaya Bank (documented on the front 
page of Current) absence of loyalties 
to the Opposition m spite of claiming 
to be a part of it, close ties with the 
principal suspect in the Rotors case, 
Rajiv Gandhi, and an obvious con- 
tempt for public opinion having lost 
his deposit the last tune he contested 
election. Such an individual was 
accountable to none save himself and 
was best suited for the task of stifling 
the Bofors ivestigation. Not surpri- 
singly, he was quick It) defend the 
conduct of his law officers in court and 
to castigate the honest though unfor- 
tunate Madhavan, who investigated 
the offence on behalf of the CBI. 

The Bofors investigation survives by 
a tenuous thread. Even if there are no 
Justice ('hawlas in the Supreme 
Court, a government determined to 
shield the guilty can resort to several 
stratagems to frustrate the Bofors in- 
vestigation. Delay, ineptness, sub- 
borning of witnesses, suppression of 
vital evidence, non-investigation in 
the manner of the Rajiv government, 
non-compliance with Swiss law and 
sending appropriate signals to the 
Swi.ss courts and police, who, after all, 
are hardly likely to help a regime 
that shows a singular disinterest in the 
investigation, are only some o1 the 
methods by which a successful in\es- 


tigation can be averted In the ulti- 
mate analysis, the success of the 
Bofors investigation is dependent in 
large measure on the will and deter- 
mination of the present government. 

At this juncture, all those who 
ardently desire the success of the 
Bofors investigation must necessarily 
focus their attention on Chandra 
Shekhar. It is difficult to imagine that 
a politician who once commanded the 
admiration of freedom-loving citizens 
in this country when he resigned from 
the Congress party on the issue of the 
declaration of Emergency and sup- 
pression of civil liberties, is a willing 
accomplice to the diabolic and subver- 
sive tactics of Subramaniam Swamy. 
Chandra Shekhar has not covered 
himself with glory in the manner in 
which he seized the prime ministerial 
chair. But, it is not too late for him to 
redeem himself and disclose to the 
nation that he still holds those princi- 
ples dear which he so enthusiastically' 
pronounced when he was unques- 
tioned leader of the Opposition. 

C handra Shekhar may have con- 
vinced himself that the nation is 
besieged with far more serious prob- 
lems than Bofors. It is imperative, 
however, that he realises that at the 
i root of all extremist movements, be 
they m Punjab, Assam or Jammu and 
Kashmir, is a grievance that our jus- 
tice system has ceased to be fair. For 


too long now, a coterie of vested in- 
terests in almost every state have 
appropriated the limited largesse 
available to themselves. Absence of 
justice — both distributive and legal — 
has led to alienation particularly 
among the youth and a consequent 
attraction for violent and extremist 
movements which affords its own uni- 
que brand of justice. The Sikhs still 
have not obtained redress of their 
grievances pertaining to the massacre 
in Delhi in the aftermath of Indira 
Gandhi's death in 1984. The militants 
i in Jammu and Kashmir claim that they 
have never had a responsive adminis- 
tration. It is futile for our politicians to 
escape responsibility for the 
mushrooming of militant movements 
by claiming Pakistani instigation for 
every ill. Pakistani interference there 
undoubtedly is, but the youth in Pun- 
jab and Jammu and Kashmir have be- 
come amenable to Pakistani over- 
tures, because, our system has ceased 
to be fair and just. 

If only ('handra Shekhar were a cri- 
minal lawyer, he would realise, for 
example, that our sorry economic 
plight is largely because an offender 
who has adequate resources can cor- 
rupt our law-enforcing agencies — be 
they customs, excise or I'hRA offic- 
ers, and buy their way out of trouble. 
The result is that large-scale violation 
of our revenue laws continues un- 
abated— often the lihws themselves are 
absurd— while the system preens itself 
as being successful on account of an 
occasional raid during the course of 
which confessions are obtained by 
wanton force and by the occasional 
conviction of a small-time offender 
who did not have the means to buy 
justice. 

This is not to suggest that those who 
man our law-enforcing agencies are 
inherently corrupt. Rather, they take 
their cue from those who preside over 
the nation's destiny at the very top. If 
the biggest perpetrators of economic 
offences repeatedly escape the clutch- 
es of the law, a law-enforcing officer 
can hardly be blamed for adopting an 
attitude of extreme cynicism about the 
system in which he is asked to operate. 

Bofors is all about sending the right 
signals not only to law-enforcing offic- 
ers but to the citizens of this country. 
If Chandra Shekhar believes that our 
economy has plunged to its lowest 
depth, because, corruption has eaten 
into its very vitals, then, it is time he 
set about making an example of the 
Bofors accused who are perpetrators 
of the gravest economic offences. • 


82 


SUNDAV 30 December 1990-6 Jarujary 1991 





KHAASBAA' 



Dimple; extending moral support 


"The most exciting thing 
about this year’s Filmfare 
awards function was not 
just that Rekha made her 
first public appearance, but 
that she came accompanied 
by het secretary Farzana, 
the subject of many an un- 
savoury rumour. 

And most of the industry 
folk who’d bad-mouthed 
her with such relish after 
Mukesh Aggarwal’s 
suicide, wasted no time in 
sucking up to her. 

The second most exciting 
art of the event created a 
igger splash than most. 

Wooden boards had 
been placed across the Cen- 
taur pool to accommodate 
the large number of people 
present at the party. To- 
wards the end of the even- 
ing, these boards gave way, 
throwing several guests into 
the deep end. And many of 
the celebrities in attend- 
ance had to be roped into 
the task of rescuing those in 
imminent danger of 
drowning. 

Other sidelights of the 
evening. 

Not only did Jackie 
Shroff come accompanied 
by his baby, he even carried 
him onstage when he re- 
ceived the best actor 
award. Dimple Kapadia 
created a stir by arriving 
with husband Rajesh Khan- 
na, ostensibly with a view 
to give moral support to the 
old debauch, who was 
being honoured for his 
achievements of the last 25 
years. Anu Aggarwal, in a 
stunning pink sari, was the 
belle of the ball. 

And at the high table, 
occupied by the publishing 
director of the Times of In- 
dia Group, sat two persons 
who looked like new vil- 
lains of the Bombay film 
industry. Closer inspection 
revealed that one of them 
was a leading industrialist. 
And the other The Illus- 
trated Weekly of India’s 


candidate for the prime 
ministership: Santosh 
Bharatiya. 

IThe rest of the function 
was just about par for the 
course The awards cere- 
mony started one and a half 
hours late. Javed Akhtar 

laved Akhtar: no thanks to 
Capra 



came wearing a suit, in- 
dicating that he’d been tip- 
ped off that he would win. 
And sure enough, he 
walked away with the tro- 
phy for the best dialogue- 
writer (for Main Azaad 
Hoon). But no, he didn’t 
thank Frank Capra, from 
whom he’d stolen the stuff, 
in his acceptance speech. 

Anupam Kher, what 
with his special relationship 
with Filmfare and the fact 
that his wife Kiran was 
organising the show, must 
have known that he’d get 
the award for best support- 
ing actor. Nonetheless, 
Kher couldn’t believe his 
good fortune, for he bet 
Mahtsh Bhatt Rs 5,000 that 
he wouldn’t win. 

When he was declared 
the victor, he handed Rs 
500 over to Bhatt as adv- 
ance payment at the func- 
tion itself. And visited the 
director at his house the 
next day to hand over the 
rest of the money. 


I f Nagarjuna thought that 
he’d have the same success 
with Shiva as his rival Chir- 
anjeevi did with Prati- 
bandh, he thought wrong. 
His maiden release in Hindi 
came and went without 
creating even a ripple. 

A pity, that.' For, even 
through the blood and gore 
that vitiated the film, 
Nagarjuna’s earthy charm 
came across only too well. 

Now we know what 
Amala sees in him. 

Last year’s awards were a 
Subhash Ghai presenta- 
tion. This year Ghai was in 
the doghouse, and a serious 
attempt was made to inject 
a semolance — just a sembl- 
ance, mind you — of fair- 
ness to the proceedings. 



Anupam Kher: aurprise, 
surprise! 


Which is why Mahesh 
Bhatt didn't get a single 
award. But Bhatt doesn’t 
mind. He has been assured 
of a number of trophies the 
following year: best picture 
for Daddy, best actor for 
Anupam and best actress 
for daughter Pooja in Dad- 
dy and best music for 
Aashiqui. 

The Oscars were never 
so much fun. 


SUNDAY 30 Daewnber 1990—5 January 1991 


83 




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FOR YEARS. WFVE BEEN MVENTINO THE FUTURE. 

PHILIPS 



SPOTUGHT 


Play IT 

AGAIN 


They called 
it Visions in 
Harmony. And as sarod 
maestro Amjad Ali 
Khan, tabla wizard 
Zakir Hussain and the 
Hongkong Philharmonic 
Orchestra played, while 
celebrity painters M.F. 
Husain (India), Kalidas 
Karmakar (Bang- 
ladesh), Oiu Deshu 
(China), Zahoor U1 
Akhlaq (Pakistan) and 
Gerard d’Hendersen 
created the most master- 
ly canvases, it proved to 
be the event of the de- 
cade. 

The “audio-visual 
symphony” worked well, 
even though Ustad Am- 
jad Ali Khan, for one, 
had never played with an 
orchestra before. But, 
says Khan, “As I am all 
for this interaction be- 



Amjad Ali Khan: playing while M.F. Huslan painted 


tween art and the 
artistes, I decided to 
take part in the event.” 

Adventurism paid off, 
for Khan realised how 
well Indian ragas 
blended with a Western 
symphony orchestra. “I 
didn’t try to be too Indi- 
an or too Westernised,” 
he says. “I chose those 
phrases that would put 


Bharat bhavan bachaoi 


Bhopal’s 
Bharat Bha- 
van has always managed 
to stay in the news — 
even if it was for all the 
wrong reasons. So, no 
one could have been too 
surprised when it hit the 
headlines yet again, with 
the BJP government of 
Madhya Pradesh taking 
over the multi-arts com- 
plex. 

But it was Pupul 
Jayakar, the exiled czar- 
ina of culture, who en- 
ded up hogging the pub- 
licity. For, the chairper- 
son of the Bharat Bha- 
van Trust resigned from 
her post to protest the 
BJP move, followed by 


the other artiste-trustees 
and advisory committee 
members, including 
M.F. Husain, Kumar 
Gandharva, Habib Tan- 
vir and Birju Maharaj. 

Prime Minister Chan- 
dra Shekhar was 
Pupul JayakaR staying In tha 


the players at ease and 
they mastered it in jUvSt 
two rehearsals.” 

The paintings pro- 
duced while the musi- 
cians played were au- 
ctioned off, the proceeds 
going to a Hongkong- 
based charity. 

And thus a cause high- 
er than art was served as 
well. 


approached by Jayakar 
and Co., in the hope that 
he would set things 
right. And Shekhar, in 
his characteristic style, 
promised to look into 
the issue. 

And, for the moment 
at least, the matter rests 
there. 


Looking at 

THE 

CONGRESS- 
FOOT IN THE 
MOUTH 

He’s made a 
career out of 
shooting his mouth off. 
But rarely have Vasant 
Sat he’s utterances cre- 

i i ated as much of stir as 
^ his recent interview to 
The Independent. 

1 Tearing into the Con- 
1 gress’ policy of appeas- 
I ing minorities, 

1 Sathe indicted the 




SONDEEPSHANKA 


V, Vaunt Sathe: shooting hit 
• mouth off 

Congress leadership for 
its irresponsible politics. 

; Predictably, the reac- 
tion from the party ranks 
was swift. While Con- 
gress spokesman V.N. 

. Gadgil clarified that 
Sathe had just been ex- 
pressing his personal 
^ views,Ra jya Sabha mem 
’ ber Abrar Ahmed went 
V? to the other extreme , call- 
ing Sathe an “RSS infil- 
I trator”. And AICC(I) 

U general secretary, C.K. 

I Jaffer Sharief, called for 
i his expulsion from the 
1 party. 

1 Sathe, however, chose 
1 to answer only to Rajiv 
1 Gandhi, holding a 30- 
1 minute meeting with his 
H party president. 

1 And stayed . For the 
I moment, at least. 


SUNDAY 30 D«c«fntMr 19B0— 5 January IM 








Complied by SEEMA GOSWAMI 


Food for 

THOUGHT 

He’d prom- 
ised to turn 
Indian Airlines around 
during his tenure. And 
minister for civil aviation 
Harmohan Dhawan be- 
gan by making his exper 
ience as a restaurateur 
bear on his new job. 

A new high-quality 
menu would be intro- 
duced on all flights from 
the time the winter time- 
table came into effect, 
with new dishes being 
served every day, the 
minister announced. 

And he would help 
choose them to ensure 
than passengers were 
not short-changed as 
usual. 

Hence, the sumptuous 
spread at Sardar Patel 
Bhavan, with Russian 
salad, biryani, chicken 
korma, samosas and tik- 
kis laid out in aluminium 
.foil , for Dhawan to f- 
choose from. In attend 
ance were caterers from I 
Chefair, the Taj and the I 
Oberoi, airlines staff led i 
by Air Marshall Ramdas | 
and sundry journalists, to 
help with the food tasting 
and decision making. 

The final word, 
however, rested with the 
minister. 

Only he knows 
whether it will be chicken 
cutlets or mutton biryani 
on Wednesday. 

Harmohan Dhawan: 
Improving I A faro 


Even before 
HIHH Samantha 
Fox came onstage, the 
13,000-strong crowd had 
gone quite berserk. Af- 
ter all, it wasn’t every 
day that Bombay audi- 
ences were treated to the 
sight of well-endowed 
women, clad in g-strings 
and skimpy tops, gyrat- 
ing away to loud music. 

And by the time Fox 
finally appeared, to do 
her usual Touch Me 
routine at the Andheri 
Sports Complex, things 
had deteriorated so that 
the police had to lathi- 
charge the crowds to res- 
tore a modicum of 
order. 

Not that it kept the 
audience in check. 
Already upset by the 
fact that the concert had 


The Samantha Fox concert: 


chaos, confusion and 


catcalls 


begun late, and that 
there were no relay 
speakers at the back of 
the stadium, the crowd 


began ripping apart the 
wiring that cordoned off 


the VIP area. 


Through all this sexy 


Sam crooned away, en 




Imran Khan: on a fund-raising drive 

Cricket comes second 



years 
ago, his 

mother died of cancer. 
And there wasn’t “one 
specialist hospital in 
Pakistan to treat her”. 

That set Imran Khan 
thinking. And soon the 
cricketer had decided 


that his primary mission 
would be to raise funds 
for a cancer hospital in 
his country. 

The project took time 
to take off, though. It 
was only in last Novem- 
ber that the money be- 
gan coming in. But since 


ding her performance 
with the song the Rolling 
Stones had made famous 


in the Sixties, Satisfac 


And despite the dis 


mal quality of her music, 
got a rousing ovation for 
her pains. 


then Imran hasn't 
looked back. Currently 
OP a hectic tour of Bri- 
tain, organising concerts 
and public dinners to 
raise funds, the Pakista- 
ni Test captain is being 
assisted in his en- 
deavours by such Indian 
celebrities as Sunil 
Gavaskar and Sunil 
Dutt. 

Says Imran:“I play 
cricket now only to stay 
in the public eye to 
promote this project.” 
And he's not doing too 
badly with $ 1 .5 million 
in the kitty, though the 
target of $10 million is 
still a long way off. 

But if Khan’s tenacity 
on the field is anything 
to go by , it shouldn’t 
prove too difficult • 


V S RAMANATHAN 


87 
















JUST THINK. WHICH OTHEI 
DESIGN HAS A HIGHLY DEVELOPED 
imSflNCT FOR SURVIVAL? 






-Si 


mi 






'•W 






■iW. 


VOirViCOTIT. 



heR'90 undergoes 511 
quality inspections. A bit 
much, you’d think. 

But when you find 
yourself on roads lashed by 
rains or laced with melting ice, you’ll 
probably respond the way our international 
experts did. 

For one, you’ll praise the R-W’s tread 
for pumping out water so fast that, even in 
monsoons, the grip area is almost always 
dr>. 

Next you’ll marvel at the R-W’s precise 
response to acceleration, steering and 
braking. 


During the height of summer, you’ll be 
glad that we built a heat^and- cut resistant 
compound into the tread. And that the 
body plies are constructed with nylon 
polymer with exceptional temperature 
tolerance. ■■■ 


conditions, you’ll willingly acknowledge 
what lakhs of car^owners have always 
believed about the R'90. 

‘it’s a miracle!” 


00 one tmngsrorsure. 
When you next confront the 
madness that Is India’s driving 


R3a EXECUTIVE 
ANURACIEOFDESIGN. 









of flieleft 


The veteran Marxist 
Jatin Chakraborty 
looks back in sadness 


"We are Marxists. We don't believe 
in the unseen. But today, after more 
than 50 years of politics, after .serving 
several terms in prison, after ^etrin^ to 
know the nature of trade unionism, 
after being minister and losing minis- 
tership, after experiencing the death of 
one child, / now feel that some unseen 
hand directs us, sometimes showing us 
the way and at other times confusing 
and disrupting everything " 

T hat IS a Marxist talking. 

Jatin Chakraborty, 79, for- 
mer revolutionary, freedom 
fighter, filibuster and one- 
time senior minister in West 
Bengal's Left Front government, is 
something of a fatalist today. As a 
young man he had believed that one’s 
destiny could be determined by voli- 
tion, that even the world could be 
shaken and changed. He had grown 
up in an era in which Lenin and Stalin 
demonstrated that an entire nation 
could be pulled up by its bootstraps. 
In India, Gandhi and his ragged 
satyagrahis had jolted British im- 


perialism. Chakraborty 's beliefs had 
been formed in that milieu. 

But some half a century later when 
he stalked out of the West Bengal 
government, after accusing Marxist 
chief minister Jyoti Basu of nepotism, 
it was with the realisation that some 
things never change. The disappropri- 
ated of yesteryears become the 
appropriators of today. “Lenin had 
warned that the seat of power is 
smeared with a sweet glue that traps 
the power-hungry like flies to fly pap- 
er,” says (liakraborty with more than 
a little sadness, his usually mis- 
chievous eyes clouding over for an 
instant behind his thick lenses. It does 
seem a little unfortunate that the les- 
sons that survive the vicissitudes of 


Jatin Chakraborty’s 
brazenness, 
impatience and 
tendency to act 
withoiit forethought 
ultimately cost him his 
job. When he went, it 
was in a blaze of 
adverse publicity 


time are usually the ones which teach 
cynicism. 

Yet, the irrepressible Jatin Chakra- 
borty, or Jackie as he is popularly 
known (after Jackie Coogan m the 
Chaplin film The Kid), has not turned 
apostate, viciously bitter or hopeless. 
Fatalist, yes. More than a little sad, 
yes. But still raring to go. Still smok- 
ing the ugly Burma chc^^oots. And, 
best of all, .still chuckling away at the 
strange twists of fate. 

“1 learnt the importance of stamina 
a long, long time ago,” he reminisces. 
“1 was a long distance runner in my 
younger days.” He was more: a foot- 
baller (a fanatic Mohan Bagan club 
supporter) and a boxer. Pugilism, long 
distance running and dribbling have 
made for a quintessentialiy sporting 
outlook. There is no room for self- 
pity. The important thing is to take 
part. And at 79, expelled from the 
Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) 
and completely divorced from power, 
Jackie remains a player, crying foul 
from the sidelines to the dismay of his 
former colleagues still racing after 
power. 

J atin Chakraborty has always been a 
rebel, and a gutsy one at that. His 
audacity became something of a 
legend in the turbulent 1930s and 
1940s. He was jailed for the first time 
when he was a 19-year-old college stu- 
dent participating in an anti-British 


90 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990—5 January 1991 





protest march. Seeing his youth, an 
Anglo-Indian sergeant had tried to 
push him away from the protestors in 
an attempt to save him from arrest. 
But the stubborn Chakraborty had 
forced his way back into the mob and 
was promptly taken into custody. He 
was tried and convicted in the building 
which is now the Scottish Church Col- 
lege in Calcutta. 

Ironically, almost 50 « 

years later, Chakraborty At 

returned to the build- Chaki 

ing — this time as a rgifjili 

minister presiding over a reioll 

memorial stone-laying StSItlilUl 

function to commemo- dfstdllCI 

rale the institution's glo- 1 ^ 

rious past! WO QU 

A stint in prison did gfVOfl 

nothing to curb the aieL* 

fledgling revolutionary’s aSKc 

zeal for activist politics. ■■■■ 

Prison, in fact, proved L__ 

to be a most educative experience. He 
came in touch with most of the leading 
politicians and intellectuals of his 
time. He also learnt to fend for him- 
self aud squeeze enjoymenl out of the 
•worst of times, Chakraborty emerged 
from prison, more bold and more de- 
termined to stand up for his beliefs 

The years that followed hardened 
his jaw line and sharpened his temper. 
(Later, Jalin Chakraborty was to 
admit that his temper was his worst 
enemy). Both qualities, however, 
helped him out of many a scrape. 
Once, when he, along with a group of 
his party comrades, defied curfew in 
wartime Calcutta to cremate a col- 
league killed in police firing, it was his 
pluck and short temper that saved 
them. The Quit India Movement was 
on and the British were cracking down 
mercilessly on native political activ- 
ists, whom they considered to be 
treacherous subversives. Chakrabor- 
ty ’s procession was proceeding down 
Bow Bazar street when it was stopped 
b> a truckful of British soldiers. 

“For a moment, we froze, some- 
body among us gripped my arm and 
moaned that we were all going to die,” 
he recalls. The British soldiers jumped 
off the truck and cocked the safety 
catches off their guns. At that instant, 
Chakraborty’s anger look over. 

He strode up to the soldiers and 
demanded indignantly:“What do you 
think you are doing?” 

The soldier in command was 
momentarily taken aback. “What do 
you think you are doing,” he retorted. 
“This is a curfew. You are breaking 
curfew orders.” 


At 79, 
Chakraborty 
retains the 
stamina of along 
distance runner. 
No quarters 
given, none 
asked for 



SUNDAY 30 December 1990—5 January 1991 






adhere to guidelines while awarding 


“We are doing nothing of the kind," 
replied an unfazed C'hakraborty.“This 
is not a political procession. This is a 
funeral procession You want to shoot 
us?" 

The soldiers could not but relent. 
“They followed us all the way to the 
crematoriuin and all the way back to 
our homes," says C'hakraborty with a 
chuckle. 

In- later years, however, his bra/e n- 
ness, impatienee and tendency to act 
without forethought only made him 
enemies, earned him bad publicity and 
ultimately cost him his job. When he 
went, it was in a blaze of adverse 
publicity. 

T owards the end of his tenure as 
senior minisiei (o1 public works) 
in the Lett I ront government, C'hak- 
raborty tendeil to be depicted as a 
political i>gie, boorish, corrupt and, 
worst of all, tieacherous. Many de- 
scribed him as a senile crank. He had, 
moreover, not exactK endeared him- 
self to the public by calling journalists 
prostitutes, quarrelling publicly with 
pop artiste Usha lithup and rubbing 
hundieds of people the wiong way 
with his foul temper and brusque man- 
ner. I’owaids the end, he shocked the 
people of West Bengal by alleging that 
chief minister Jyoti Basil, far from 
being spotlessly clean, was guilty of 
nepotism 

C'hakraborty was castigated for 
turning against .lyoti Basil, who was 
not merelv his leader but also a pei- 
sonal triend It was insinuated that 
CTiakrabort\ acted eithei out of pique 
OT some underhand motives. But 
C'hakraborty refuses to offer regrets. 
As fat as he is concerned, the chief 
minister betiayed him. 

‘in 1‘^fSS. the chief minister's son, 
Chandan Basil, came to .see me along 
with 1apan Roy of Bengal Lamp," 
recounts C'hakraborty. C'handan, 
apparently, wanted C'hakraboity's 
public works department (PWr])) to 
place a large order w ith Bengal I .imp, 
a C'alciitta-based company that had 
hired him as a management trainee. “I 
had known C'handan foi yeats, he was 
at one time my daughters' playmate 
and as foi Bengal Lamp, it was a 
reputed local company," he explains. 
Telling Chandan and Roy to wait, 
Chakraborty went across to the chief 
minister. Jyoti Basil, according to 
him, gave the green signal but 
cautioned him against noting anything 
in the files. 

Chakraborty maintains that there 
was nothing illegal or wrong about the 


PWD placing a big order with a reput- 
able local compan> that was in finan- 
cial trouble. Ciovernments the world 
over do it. And he, too, had helped 
companies on a number of occasions. 
“But nobod> talks about the scores of 
ordinary people I've helped," he says 
with some indignation. As housing 
minister he had given flats to the old 
and indigent; he had raised funds foi 
his party and many othei organisa- 
tions, including small clubs and volun- 
tary agencies. As minister, he had 
earned a reputation for efficiency. “J\- 
otibabu would joke that it was im- 
possible to keep pace with my style of 
functioning," he recalls with satisfac- 
tion . 

But what Chakraborty could not 
stomach was the chief minister's 
attempt to wash his hands completely 
off the Bengal Lamp matter w'hen the 
going got tough. The powerful 
CPI(M)-controlled State Employees 
Coordination Commitee got wind of 
the contract and petitioned Jyoti Basil 
against the deal. Basu, instead of 
brushing aside their complaints, 
reacted by sending a stern note to 
j Chakraborty, asking him to be more 
I discriminating in the future and to 


■government contracts to private com- 
panies. 

“I was astounded," says C'hakrabor- 
ty. turning red at the memory of that 
humiliation. lie was- also very furious. 
He shot off a note to the chief minis- 
ter, beginning, “If my memory selves 
me right..." and going bn to detail 



92 


SUNDAV 30 Decembo' 1390--.., January 1991 



PERSONALITY 



precisely what had transpired. There 
was no response from Basu and a few 
weeks later an enterprising reporter 
got hold of the story, which soon made 
headlines. 

The government was shaken. For, 
this was the first time that anybody 
had accu.sed Jyoti Basil of corruption. 
Chakraborty was told that he would 


Back home, he still 
smokes his ugly Burma 
cheroots. A small 
bedside table preserves 
half a dozen boxes 
stuffed with all kinds of 
cigars and cheroots. 

"Smuggled!” he 
exclaims, breaking into 
his Inimitable grin 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990- 5 January 1991 



JATIN CHAKRABORTY was castigated for turning against 
JYOTI BASU, who was not only his leader but a personal friend, 
and accusing him of nepotism, in favouring Bengal Lamp, a 
company his son CHANDAN BASU worked for 


cither have to apologise or resign. He 
chose the latter option. 

O n 28 October, 1988, the day he 
resigned, C'hakraborty released 
his official car, bade goodbye to his 
staff and returned to his tiny two- 
roomed government flat in the Karaya 
HouMiig Estate He was back to being 
an ordinary citizen, ‘i could have re- 
mained a minister by apologising but 
everything had changed too much. 
The Left Front had ceased to stand for 
the people," he says wistfully. 

In Chakraborty’s opinion, commun- 
ist rule has altered the face of West 
Bengal beyond recognition. The state 
police has been politicised and brutal- 
ised; money power has replaced mass 
power; the working class movement 
has been suppressed; political oppor- 
tunism has replaced ideology; and all 
dissent within the left parties has been 
ruthlessW suppressed. “Hundreds of 
CPI(M) dissidents have been expelled 
and the smaller left parties, instead of 
standing up to the CPffM), have be- 
come its lackeys," he laments. 

“The most unfortunate fact is that 
Marxism today has lost its human face 
and becau^e of this it is in retreat all 
over the world," he says. But while 


( hakraborty has not turned apostate, 
he hasn’t remained a dogmatist either. 
He believes that the Indian genius — 
the traditions of Vivekananda, Gan- 
dhi and Netaii Subhas Bose--has to 
be woven into current political proces- 
ses. He continues to maintain that 
Marxism-Leninism, the ideology of his 
youth, can still acijuiic a human face 
and .solve the world’s problems. He 
has not defected to any rival camp, 
floated a new political party or re- 
nounced his faith. He feels that dissi- 
dent leftists should now unite and 
pressure the major communist parties 
to adapt and rid themselves of the 
dross acquired over the years. 

Back home, he still smokes his Bur- 
ma cheroots. A small bedside table 
preserves half a dozen boxes stuffed 
with all kinds of cigars and cheroots. 
“Smuggled!" he exclaims, breaking 
into his inimitable grin. 

He may have lost everything, but 
the sparkle in his eyes icmains. At 79, 
dispossessed and disgraced, Jatin 
Chakraborty retains the stamina of a 
long distance runner No quarters 
given, none asked for Even if it 
means running for ever and ever. • 
Indranil Banerjie/Calcutta 


93 



Manipur goes into a panic as AIDS threatens to 

ravage the state 


The place: a n(tnde\( npt thatched 
structure called the (jumnuani ( hnst- 
ian Home, which descrdu’s itself as a 
healing centre. 

The town: Churachandpur, a 25,000- 

strong settlement, about 60 kilometres 

from Imphal, Manipur 

The area: Close to the hordei and on 

the drug route between India and 

Burma. 


O n the face of it, the Ciam- 
nuam Christian Home is 
an ordinary rehabilitation 
centre for the many he- 
roin addicts in Chiir- 
achandpur. A typical day for the 
home’s young inmates begins with 
‘Ouiet time’, is followed by ‘Devo- 
tion’, ‘Manual work', ‘Counselling’, 


‘Bible study’, ends with ‘Worship’ and 
has a tew ‘Recreation’ and ‘Break’ 
times m between. But look again. 

On entering the fenced crimpound 
that leads to the shabby building, you 
could easily mistake it tor a prison. 
Almost all the home's 85 inmates the 
large majority of them heroin 
addicts- are swathed in heavy iron 
chains. The chains hardly ever come 
off. The youths read the holy book 
during ‘fhble study’ bound hand and 
foot, struggle to keep the fetters out of 
the way as they eat their meagre meals 
and go to bed wearing irons. 

The reason for this bizarre and per- 
verse practice is a four-letter word that 
is increasingly beginning to haunt 
Manipur: AIDS. Most of the 85 
youths at the Gamnuam home have 


tested positive for the virus. And the 
rest are suspected to be AIDS carriers 
as they fall in the high-risk category: 
intra-venous drug u.sers (IVDUs). 

Fheie are ostensibly two reasons for 
chaining the youths, f irst, tc prevent 
them from running away and reverting 
to mainlining heroin. Second, to en- 
sure that they do not lead others to 
contract the dreaded AIDS virus. Of 
the 85 youths at CJamnuam, only the 
ten or so women- -who are made to do 
daily chores such as cooking and 
sweeping— are unfettered 

I’he puzzling question is how these 
youths came to he admitted to the 
home. According to D. Paukholian, 
the man who runs the home along with 
his wife, all of them have come for- 
ward to register at (iamnuam volun- 


BOUND TO HEAL ■ The strange world of Churachandpiir's Gamnuam 



BIBLE STUDY 


The drug addiols and the AIDS-carriers receive regular 
religious instruction at the Gamnuam home. But the 
chains never come off. 


WOMEN INMATES 


Of the 85 youths at Gamnuam, about ten are women. 
They do chores such as cooking, sweeping, etc. and 
so are not chained 




larily. “Lord Jesus had spoken to my 
wife ten years ago and asked her to 
start working for the victims of socie- 
ty. We have been running this home 
since early 1987," he says 

In truth, however, most of the in- 
mates have been forcibly brought to 
Gamnuam-’ at the instance of a socie- 
ty which is largely ignorant about 
drug-addiction and in a state (^f panic 
over the AIDS scare. In Manipur, a 
mainlincT of heroin is believed to be 
ipso facto an AIDS carrier and is tre- 
ated pretty much like an untouchable 
The large ma)onty of the youths at 
(jamnuam have been admitted by 
their parents or the police. To many 
parents, the home is a convenient way 
of washing their hands off a heroin- 
addicted, 1 IlV-positive child. And to 
the police, such youths are a ihieat to 
society and best kept away fiom the 
public. Paukhohan admits as much. 
“Some come here because the pv)hce 
do not want them to go to jail In 
prison, they can acquire drugs by brib- 
ing constables." 

O nce the youths are admitted, pa- 
rents are expected to give up all 
authority over their children toi a 
period of three years. At the end ot 
that period, the (iamnuam home be- 
lieves it is able to send a heioin-addict 
back to society — completely cured Ot 
AIDS too? 

Says Paukhohan; “AIDS is not a 



THE HEROIN FIX: Most AIDS- 
carriers in Manipur are intra-venous 
drug users. Mainlining heroin has 
become a common practice 

curse but a blessing because it turns 
people to Ciod. No one should be 
at raid of it because he will get cuied." 
rile ^'hiistian ‘social worker', who 
construes lus work as a divine mission, 
believes that worship is sufficient to 
cure herom-inamliners loo There are 
no detoxifying medicines given to the 


inmates of Gamnuarn. “When they 
are in pain, they are asked to pray. 
When the pain increases, they are 
asked to pray more," he says. 

Many of the inmates appear to have 
absorbed Paukholian’s jihilosophy. 
Says Kap Khirenno. who has tested 
AIDS-positive: “We live by faith and 
are cured by faith. I have already re- 
ceived a new life through Jesus. If they 
test me now, I know they will not find 
the virus " Adds Suan Thang; “When 
the pain becomes unbearable, we have 
to prolong tiur prayers. I feel better as 
soon as my prayer is accepted." 

Among (iamnuam’s inmates is the 
vacant-looking Philip, whose father is 
a Gabinet minister in Manipur. The 
youngest of the lot is 12-vear-old 
Thang Lian Lai, who is believed to be 
possessed by evil spirits and has been 
admitted to be exorcised And of the 
ten or so girls, one keeps crying for the 
“demon's son" she thinks she deli- 
vered a while ago 

Needless to say, the claim that 
everyone in the home is happy and 
secure is patently false. Sometime 
ago. two boys committed suicide by 
lumping into a well in the lumie. 
Asked about the incident. Ptiukholian 
replies philosophically. “Otten, the 
prayers work here. Sometimes, they 
do not." 

C’learly, Paukhohan has no doubts 
about the worth of his w'c>rk. He seems 
to genuinely believe that he is undcr- 



Inmates struggle to keep the fetters out of the way 
during their meagre meals. If there is no food, then they 
are asked to pray 


D. Paukholian, who runs the Gamnuarn home, 
describes it as a healing centre. If this involves 
chaining inmates, then that’s all right 


SUNDAY 30 Decambar 1 990-6 January 1 991 


95 



SEEKING REFUGE: More than 200 drug-addicted AIDS-suspects have 
been admitted to Imphal’s Central Jail. Most prefer prison because it is safe 


taking a divine mission and Gam- 
nuam — whatever else it may be — is no 
money-making enterprise. No fees arc 
charged for the ‘healing’ and f’aukho- 
lian estimates that his daily expenses 
for food, etc. amount to about Rs 
1,5(X). “When I started this, I had only 
Rs 4 in my pocket. What we have built 
is because of God,” he says with an air 
of reverence. 

In Churachandpur, the residents 
don't seem particularly upset b\ the 
chaining of the youths. Mosi people 
that Sunday spoke to seemed to think 
that this was necessary to prevent the 
inmates from leaving Gamnuam. 
one wants them to be a part of society 
and so this is the only alternative,” is 
the constant refrain. 

E^xplains A.shwini Kumar, a Delhi- 
based psychiatrist, who has visited the 
home: “The youths are there because 
parents and friends are unwilling to 
accept them. If they are let out, they 
will be unable to get jobs and fend for 
themselves. This is what has led peo- 
ple to believe that Gamnuam is the 
be.st option.” 


Manipur’s chief minister, R.K. 
Ranbir Singh, was completely una- 
ware of the bizarre practices in the 
home until Sunday drew his attention 
to them. "Baap re haap. I can't believe 
it. I will have to ru.sh to Churachand- 
pur,” was his first reaction. Ranbir 
Singh then went on to say that he was 
aware that Gamnuam received funds 
from the Centre, but had no idea that 
the drug-addicts were chained, not 
administered medicines and left to the 
mercy of God. After calling up the 
district administration and industry 
minister Holkhomang Sakoip (who 
were asked to file reports immediate- 
ly), he promised: “I will not allow this. 

, I will close it (the home) down.” 

G amnuam may be a bizarre exam- 
ple but, in some ways, it is symp- 
tomatic of a state which has become 
panic-stricken by AIDS. A little over 
2,000 people have tested AIDS- 
positive all over the country, but this 
figure, according to experts, will be 
surpassed by tiny Manipur alone in a 
matter of months. Unofficial esti- 
mates, however, for the number of 
AIDS-carriers in the state — the 


majority of them drug-users — are 
much much higher. 

“By a conservative estimate, there 
are 30,000 to 40,000 drug addicts in 
Manipur and more than halt of them 
are suspected AIDS-positive. If we 
assume that each of them has trans- 
mitted the virus to one other person, 
we still have an epidemic by any stan- 
dards,” says Debabrala Roy, a doctor 
with New Life, the largest and best- 
known deaddiction centre in Manipur. 
There are others in the state who 
share Roy’s gloomy assessment. 

The problem in Manipur stems 
directly from the high incidence of 
intra-venous drug use. According to a 
recent official release, out of 1,125 
samples sent for blood testing, a stag- 
gering 1,076 showed up the presence 
of the AIDS virus. Of these, 1,016 or 
94.5 per cent were samples from intra- 
venous drug users. In contrast, less 
than three per cent contracted the 
virus through sex. 

The growing incidence of AIDS is 
closely allied to the changes in the 
pattern of drug use. For instance, in 
1982, only one per cent of the total 


96 


SUNDAY 30 December 1990— 5 January 1991 


SPECIAL REPORT 




REHABILITATION CENTRE: New Life is the 
best-known centre for treating drug addicts. But it is 
expensive and can be afforded only by the rich 


NEED FOR AWARENESS: Manipur will have to educate 
Its people if It wants to rid itself of the AIDS menace 


addicts HI the state were intra-venous 
drug users or IVDDs. Now, they con- 
stitute the vast majority of drug 
addicts m Manipui. For the youth to- 
day, the most popular higli is a fix of 
heroin. Kelali\elv liarmless stimulants 
such as hashish and marijuana have 
been passed over toi this powerful and 
dangeiims diug 

“This IS no place tor a mild dose," 
says Ibotoma Singh, a resideiu of Im- 
phal. "Lor the M<iiiipuiis. it is only 
No. 4." Singh is referring to a brand of 
heroin which has become the rage m 
Manipur. A dose of No. 4 costs Rs 30 
and is peddled m pan shops anci shady 
street-corners m virtually every town 
in the state. “It's almost as simple as 
buying a cigarette," says Singh. “He- 
roin has become Manipur's most 
popular import." 

The state shares a 352-kilomctre 
border with Burma, which together 
with Thailand and Taos form the Gol- 
den Triangle — now the hotbed tor he- 
roin trafficking in the east. With the 
Western nations cracking down on he- 
roin-smuggling, countries such as In- 
dia have become a target for the traf- 
fickers. The forested border that Man- 


ipur shares with Burma is ideal for this 
business. Often, all that it takes is 
finding a poor tribal who is willing to 
carry a few kilograms of heroin m 
exchange tor a little money. 

Because Manipur is a major conduit 
for heroin into the country, the drug is 
available relatively cheaply in the 
state. A kilogram of powder, which 
sells for Rs l,(K),()()0 in the state, can 
fetch as much as Rs 30 lakhs in one of 
the Indian metropolises. 1'he state 
government has completely failed to 
prevent the illegal trade and com- 
plains of the lack of resources to man 
the border effectively. Says chiel 
minister R.K. Ranbir Singh: “We 
need at least 23 more checkpoints at 
the border and a far larger police and 
paramilitary presence.” But there are 
many people in the state who feel that 
Imphal is being lax and irresponsible. 
Says P.K. Singh, director of the state’s 
health services: “If the government 
can’t patrol the border effectively, it 
should seal it.” 

M anipur has clearly been caught 
unawares by the AIDS epidemic 
and needs to take urgent steps to 


check the diug menace. Apart from 
the central government-sponsored 
New Life, there are few decent dead- 
diction centres for heroin-users. As 
for AIDS patients, theie is next to 
nothing by way of medical facilities. 
The Regional Medical C ollege Hospit- 
al at Imphal has stopped admitting 
AIDS cases. “It is very contagious and 
the staff are very scared. So, we send 
them to the New Jawaharlal Nehru 
Hospital," says a senior superinten- 
dent. But all that this hospital does for 
AIDS patients is to keep them m an 
isolation room for a few days and re- 
lease them Says superintendent 
Khomdam Singh: “We do not have 
special safety measures to offer our 
staff such as double gloves piolection 
masks, etc. These are the minimum 
requirements for handling blood sam-. 
pies.” 

As for the so-called proposed AIDS 
hospital — to be the first of its kmu m 
the country — there are no signs of it 
being set up. Moreover, as state 
health director P.K. Singh points out, 
calling it a hospital is a misnomer. “It 
will only be an AIDS ward. Wc will 
have six beds in an isolated general 


SUNDAY 30 December 1930 * b January 1991 


97 


SPECIAL REPORT 


THE SPREADING SCOURGE 



HIV-POSITIVE CASES 

(Upto 31 October, 1990) 



Total 



IVOUs 

1016 

(94.5%) 




ii 

STD cases 

33 

(3%) 

■ 1 

Blood donors 

27 

(2.5%) 




Cliart by Niira(an Many 


ward in the old district hospital. At the 
moment, the state only has the re- 
latively inaccurate Elisa test facility to 
check the presence of the AIDS virus. 
Blood samples have to be sent to Cal- 
cutta for the more expensive Western 
Blot — the confirmatory test — though 
there is talk of making the facility 
available in Manipur soon. 

“We had budgeted Rs 76 lakhs to 
control AIDS in the current year, but 
all we have received is only Rs 20 
lakhs from the Centre. The stale, on 
the other hand, hasn't given us a pen- 
ny," complains P.K. Singh. The Man- 
ipur government, however, says it is 
planning to fight the epidemic in a big 
way. “We propose to allocate rupees 
one crore for this in the next budget," 
chief minister Ranbir Singh told 
Sunday. 

For the moment, only a few pri- 
vileged drug addicts such as Arun 
Kumar Singh (whose father is a senior 
official in the state education depart- 
ment) or Pranjat (who comes from a 
rich business family) can afford re- 
habilitation centres such as New Life, 
which charge Rs 8(X) for detoxification 
and Rs 1,800 for after-care. Moreov- 
er, New 1^ has the facilities to treat 
only ^ 

bear ii^BHd that we are not only 
treatin|||SKug addict but a suspected 
AlDS-^^Wve patient too. This in- 
creaseMp^ responsibility of the doc- 
tors iSSnifold," says Khogendra 
Singh, the organisation's secretary. 

A m 9 jor problem in identifying 

rr 


AIDS-carriers is the extieme reluct- 
ance of drug addicts to undcigo blood 
tests. In Manipur, most people who 
test positive are treated as untouch- 
ables; worse, they aie often haiassed. 
ostracised, torcibly isolatetl and 
beaten up. Foi example, when a local 
newspaper revealed the names ot 
AIDS-posilivc cases, the afflicted 



CLEARLY WORRIED; Chief minister 
Ranbir Singh promises to take 
effective steps to check the 
AIDS menace 


were publicly flogged by the people. 
This led many to run away and a few 
to commit suicide. Thus, many drug 
addicts refrain from owning up to the 
habit. Doctors say that this is the main 
reason for their believing that the offi- 
cial statistics on AIDS in the state is 
only the tip of the iceberg. 

For many of the AIDS-affected, the 
only safe place in the state is the Cen- 
tral Jail in Imphal. Of the 809 prison- 
ers, a sizeable 223 arc drug addicts. 
Although only 34 of them have been 
confirmed AIDS-positive, it is esti- 
mated that as many as half the addicts 
are AIDS-carriers. Says jailor Jiban 
Singh Longjam: “Most of the AIDS 
cases come from poor families. They 
are happy here because they know 
they can live peacefully and safely." 

But even at the jail, the officials 
treat the patients with fear and dis- 
dain. They are made to clean their 
own cells, wash their clothes and most 
of the jail staff are unwilling to even 
come near them. Bui the heroin- 
addicted AIDS suspects know that life 
within four walls is probably better 
than that outside. Says Nitin Das, a 
former employee at the airport res- 
taurant in Imphal: “I cannot get out of 
here because no one will give me 
security. My family members don’t 
know about my condition, but if they 
come to, they will never let me enter 
the house." Holet, a father of three, 
has left his family behind for the secur- 
ity of the prison. “How my wife is 
fending for the children, Ciod alone 
knows," he says. An upset Yintong, a 
former cential government employee, 
complains that his parents have never 
visited him after he was admitted in 
the jail. But what has really left him 
distraught is the attitude of his girl- 
friend. “She has never cared to en- 
quire about me. She must be really 
ashamed of me," he .says regretfully. 

Clearly, one of the biggest problems 
in tackling the AIDS menace effec- 
tively in Manipur is going to be the 
ignorance and the prejudices of the 
people. If they are going to regard 
every heroin-addict as an AIDS pa- 
tient and treat every AlDS-carrier as a 
full-blown case, then very few are 
going to come forward and get tested 
for the virus. Such attitudes will only 
lead people to seek the refuge of jails 
in order to escape ostracism by socie- 
ty. And it is such biases which lead to 
the perversity in places such as the 
Gamnuam Christian Home in Chur- 
achandpur. • 

Shafquat Ali/Churaehandpur and 
Imphal 


PHOTOGRAPHS ALOKE MITRA 


SUNDAY 30 December 1090~~5 January 1991 














BOOK REVIEW 



Writii^ in the rain 

The monsoon lured Alexander Prater to India 


S adly, the majority of even 
educated people in the West 
regard India with an almost 
complete lack of interest or, at best, 
with passing curiosity, as a land in 
which exotic spirituality is combined 
with the depths of squalid poverty. 
There does exist, however, a liny 
minority of intelligent and articulate 
people on whose imagination India, 
or some facet of it, has acquired a 
tenacioushold, demanding to be ex- 
perienced and, eventually, written 
about. 

In the case of Alexander Frater it 
was the monsoon which drew him to 
this country. He had been a weather 
freak since his childhood in the hur- 
ricane-beset New Hebrides (now 
Vanuatu), where his father was a 
medical missionary, and where the 
picture above his bed at home 
showed an oriental landscape in a 
downpour, identified in the caption 
as Cherrapunji — the wettest place 
on earth. In 1987, as chief travel 
correspondent of the London 
Observer, Ke conceived the idea of a 
journey in the wake of the south-west 
monsoon up the west coast of India, to 
be followed by an excursion to — 
where else? — Cherrapunji. 

Unlike many visitors to the country, 
Frater did his homework before com- 
ing. His vade-mecum on his 
travels was Y.P. Rao’s authoritative 
Southwest Monsoon which, when it 
got too technical, he supplemented 
with P.K. Das’s plain man's guide. 
The Monsoons. He also made goodl 
use of books of British India, 
though he has neglected to provide a 
detailed bibliography. 

The mystique of the monsoon is 
as good a key as any to India's sec- 
rets; and during his travels and the 
monsoon-talk, in which he engaged 
a varied cross-section of people he 
met, he discovered things of which a 
native may be unaware. Did you 
know, for instance, that a regular 
band of devotees gathers every year 
at Kovalam Beach to greet the mon- 
soon’s first burst over India? Or that 
plane-loads of Arabs fly into Bom- 
bay every year in June and July just 
to watch and wonder at the rain? 
Did you know about the Cochin 


mudbanks, which give safe harbour 
to ships in even the worst monsoon 
gales; or the monsoon pavilion at 
Deeg in Rajasthan, where a petty 
maharaja “created his own illusory 
monsoon" with the aid of a tech- 
nically amazing system of immense 
water- tanks which fed thousands of 
fountains, to the crash of stone balls 
rolling together to simulate thunder? 
Or that the oil massage of Kerala's 
ayurvedic practitioners is most 
efficacious when taken during the 
monsoon? 

Yet, this is noinstnictionaltreatise, 
rather a travel narrative meant pri- 


marily to entertain; and Frater 
makes the most of his encounters 
with all sorts and conditions of peo- 
ple. Like many Britons, he has an 
eye for the comical side of Indian 
life and manners, but he doesn't 
labour upon it, or make more than 
passing and gentle fun of the eccen- 
tricities of Indian English. He had 
his share of adventures too, such as 
flying into Goa at the height of the 
monsoon burst. He was also mug- 
ged by smack addicts on Chowpatty 
Beach, and emerged shaken but un- 
scathed from a pile-up on the road 
from Delhi to Deeg. 

Meanwhile, the trip to Cherra- 
punji hung in the offing, since it is 
an area forbidden to foreigners. 
Prater’s experience demonstrates 
once again that with dogged-enough 
persistence, and contact with friends 
(of friends of friends) in sufficiently 
elevated quarters, it is possible to 
reverse even the most uncomprom- 



ising bureaucratic negative. (This, 
no doubt, has something to do with 
his earlier perception of India as “a 
giant web of interlocking personal 
networks which, once infiltrated, 
would keep passing you on inde- 
finitely”. )And though it wasn’t en- 
tirely plain sailing, he did in the end 
make it to Cherrapunji, and got 
rained on there, which was a satis- 
factory climax to his journey. 

It is no part of Prater's brief to 
interpret India to the West, nor 
does he claim to do so. But as an 
account of one man's experience 
and perceptions, his book rings 


This is no instructionai 
treatise, rather a 
travei narrative meant 
primariiy to entertain. 
The author makes the 
most of his 
encounters with ail 
sorts of people 


true. It portrays some of the best of 
India — in the kindness, flexibility, 
resourcefulness and commonsense 
of people he met — without ignoring 
its negative aspects: the arrogance 
of some Indians, or the inefficiency 
and couldn’t-care-less attitude of 
others. Written primarily for a 
Western readership, his book 
should make at least a crack in the 
wall of indifference which cuts India 
off from so many in the Western 
world. • 

JanmtRIxvt 



Chasing The Monsoon by 
Alexander Frater Published by 
Viking Price £14.99 


MMMVIO DMMitar 1M0-6 Jmaiy 1 Wt 


w 




SUNDAY SPORTS 



Tears and 
tri umphs 

There was more of the former and less 
of the latter in 1990 


t was a year of tears and 
triumphs, of hope and despair. 
Though by and large 1990 was a 
disappointing year for Indian 
sport, yet there were a few 
encouraging victories as well. Yes, 
stunning defeats have overshadowed 
these exceptional wins, but Indian 
sportlovers will remember the past 
one year for the new stars who 
emerged to provide fresh rays of hope. 

To start with, India produced two 
world champions — one official and 
senior and the other a junior, but one 
with great promise — Manoj Kothari 
and Lcander Paes. Then, there was 
Viswanathan Anand, a Grandmaster, 
no less, in what is the oldest known 
indoor game. The youngster is ail set 
to take up the challenge in his bid to 
become the world champion. And 
Sachir Tendulkar, the teenage sensa- 
tion who plays copybook cricket in 
Test matches and then flouts all the 
rules in the limited overs variety, to 
the delight of his ever-increasing fans. 

But where does one start? If it is 
with billiards, one must admit that it is 
still treated as an elitist sport because 
etting to play it seriously involves the 
ind of money that less than one per 
cent of the population can afford. And 
there are no package deals on limited 
budgets, as in other individual sport 
like tennis. 

Minor sport or not, the fact that 
India presented its fourth world cham- 
pion in amateur billiards should pro- 
vide .some succour to the sporting 
public. After all, success in the inter- 
national field is not something that 
comes easily to sportspersons in this 
country. The trend was set by Wilson 
Jones and it has continued at frequent 
intervals thereafter. Unfortunately, 
no Indian has yet made a mark in the 
tough professional wing of the sport. 

However, Leander Paes’ triumph is 
something to write home about. Time 
was, when Wimbledon was the last 


word in tennis. Even today, a cham- 
pion on those hallowed courts is consi- 
dered a cut above the rest. By this 
count, Paes' junior crown must rate 
him among the very best in his categ- 
ory in the world today, although one 
cannot really say he is the world 
champion. And this victory wasn't a 
flash in the pan because, earlier, it was 
only inexperience which cost him the 
Australian Open title. 

But Leander's transition from an 
also-ran to a champion has not been a 
smooth one. Following the Wimble- 
don triumph, there was some heart- 
burn over the fact that he was not 
entered for the junior US Open, a 
tournament he had set his heart on, 
because it came just a couple of 



P.T. USHA: she ended her 
career with a modest run at 
Beijing, but by then she had 
done enough to pass into 
athletics folklore 




SACHIN TENDULKAR; he 


smashed his way through the 
record books in school cricket 
to become a worthy 
successor to Sunil Gavaskar 


months or so after the All-England 
and Leandei was raring to go The 
entry was supposed to have been sent 
by the management of the Britannia 
Amritra) Tennis (BAT) scheme. This 
incident ultimately led to a parting of 
ways and Leander Paes is now on his 
own, coming from the patronage of 
Vijay Amritraj and the coaching of 
David O'Meara to the managership of 
Enrico Piperno. 

Vi.swanalhan Anand's was a very 
different tale. His single-minded devo- 
tion and tremendous talent has helped 
this youngster to carve an enviable 
niche for himself in world chess. To- 
day, he is in line -albeit long and 
arduous — for a berth m the ultimate 
round of the competition and a meet- 
ing with the champion. Anand is the 
first Indian Grandmaster. 

And then there was Sachin Tendul- 
kar. Ever since he smashed his way 
through the record books in school 
cricket, this teenager was seen as a 
worthy successor to Sunil Gavaskar. 
Although he didn’t come in quite like 
the legendary opener, his century in 
adverse conditions at the Oval on the 
Indian tour of England last summer 
marked him out as the greatest Indian 
discovery since Gavaskar took the 
Caribbean by storm. 

Mohammad Azharuddin will also 
look back in satisfaction because he 
managed to end the two-year victory 
drought India faced in Test cricket. 
Although the win was against an 
unpretentious Sri Lanka team, it was, 
nevertheless, taken by cricket-lovers 


4/\rk 


•UNOAVSODtMmbar 1990--6 January 1W1 









MANOJ KOTHARI: a mature 
and senior exponent of 
billiards, he went on to 
become a worthy world 
chamoion of the elitist snort 


LEANDER PAES; though his 
transition to a champion has 
not been smooth, his junior 
Wimbledon crown was not a 
flash in the pan 


VIS WANATHAN ANAND: 

single-minded devotion and 
tremendous talent made him 
what he is today — the first 
Indian Grandmaster 


a^ the harbinger of a new era in the 
sport 

B ut the Beijing Asiad threatened 
to put every achievement under a 
wet blanket as India had its worst 
Asiad outing since the inception of the 
Games. And if kabaddi hadn't been 
included as a competitive sport tor the 
first time, India would certainly have 
been the laughing stock of the conti- 
nent. A few silver and bronze medals 
do not justify either the size or the 
aspirations of a country like India, 
where crorcs of rupees are being spent 
in the name of sport. 

The Commonwealth Games also 
brought a bad name to the country as 
Subrata Kumar Pal was tested positive 
during a routine dope test. This 
weightlifter had won d silver in his 
weight category Naturally, he was 
stripped of the medal and the honour. 
It is now well known that drugs have 
become a way of life not only for 
weightlifters, but for sportspersons in 
several other disciplines. Even the 
East German drug-induced success in 
international athletics has been ex- 
posed after German unification, 
several Indian sportspersons continue 
to take medicinal aid to better their 
performances. This is one of the fac- 
tors that explains the disparity of 
timings and performances of the same 
people at the trials at home and the 
competitions abroad. 

Equally disquieting was the news of 
the retirement of the ‘Payyoli Ex- 
press’, P.T. Usha. This phenomenal 


athlete, who ruled Asia with, her 
tremendous guts and courage for well- 
nigh eight years, ended her run on a 
modest note at Beijing. However, 
despite the fact that she won neither 
accolades nor golds, Usha has done 
enough to pass into athletics folklore 
She will remain the greatest allilete 
India has ever produced, notwith- 
standing the fact that niggling injuries 
and poor form forced her into second 
place behind the sprightly Ashwini 
Nachappa in a sprint in the Nationals 
just before the Asiad. However, 
Nachappa is clearly not in the same 
league. 

F rom individual to team, the story 
of failure continued. In hockey, 
we went down for the umpteenth time 
to Pakistan in the play-off for gold in 
the Asiad. Now, India has to go 
through the ignominy of qualifying for 
the Olympics, an arena where India 
had ruled supreme for decades. Yes, 
the heartening thing is that there 
seems a little more motivation in the 
squad of late, but that is clearly not 
enough to put the country back at the 
top. 

If the hockey scene was bad, the 
soccer arena was disastrous. India has 
reached a stage where countries like 
Thailand and Malaysia — minnows of 
the past — have become as daunting as 
the Koreans and the Gulf countries as 
football opponents. A dangerous rot 
has set in, and unless it is stopped 
immediately, the game itself could be 
endangereci. On the one hand, there is 


too much of the game for the players. 
On the other, there is too little quality 
to sustain it. The two are intercon- 
nected and something is going to give 
way very soon. 

Amateur boxing again is a minor 
sport, but there was some satisfaction 
in the fact that, for the first time, India 
won a couple of bronze medals in the 
World Cup held in Bombay in Novem- 
ber. This was the first time that India 
came up with medals at the world 
level, though some experts feel that 
the two boxers who were placed third 
would not have made it to the semi- 
finals if the tournament was held 
outside India. Be that as it may, 
Mizoram’s Zhoramthanga could cer- 
tainly be proud of his achievement as 
the first Indian to win world recogni- 
tion in his discipline. 

Even as the process of rebuilding 
from the many crashes of ’90 has 
started, there is news of Pakistan 
refusing to bridge the gap between ’90 
and ’91. It has opted out of both the 
Asia Cup and its five-Test tour of this 
country scheduledfor the last week of 
December and the first two months of 
January. Having at last questioned the 
supremacy of the West Indies, Pakis- 
tan was expected to provide India with 
the opportunity of settling the issue of 
the world’s cricketing champions. 

But then, sport is a moving kaleido- 
scope. The ’90 hues have been bleak. 
Maybe, the bright ones will unfold 
themselves once we bid goodbye to 
1990. • 

AHJKSmi 


WNDAY ao ONtmbw ia0&-6 JaniMry 10B1 


101 





YOUR FUTURE IN 1991 


BYAMRITLAL 


ARIES (21 March— 20 April) 


9°°^ health practically 
throughout the year. Chionic patients 
life dT should utilise the favourable planetary 
IJM Ml transits to obtain a permanent cure for their 
I aSH ailments. Children’s academic 
performance will give you happiness Domestic 
harmony will prevail. New financial ventures are 
likely to yield good dividends. Finance is also 
favourably disposed 

Good months: February. March and May 

Lucky numbers: 3. 6 and 8. 

Favourable directions: North west 
Lucky colours: Red. pink and ash 

TAURUS (21 April— 20 May) 

1^ ^ Your general health may cause problems 
during the first nine months but these will 
be amenable to ordinary medical 
] treatment. You should be particularly 
I tB? ; careful about your eyes Separation from 
your spouse is likely unless you deal with your 
marital problems more tactfully Most part of the year 
does not augur well for financial matters and calls for 
all your managerial skills 

Good months: October. November and December 

Lucky numbers: 1 , 3 and 6 
Favourable directions: South-east 
Lucky colours: Black, green and violet 

GEMINI (21 May— 20 June) 

You are likely to enjoy good health 
practically throughout the year December 
i cause some worries regarding health 
J ^ but these will be of a minor nature. 

1 mk 1 Domestic affairs will be peaceful. The year 
will be favourable for matters pertaining to finance. 
You may experience financial constraints in 
December, but assistance from friends will be 
timely. 

Good months: January. March and June 

Lucky numbers: 3, 4 and 5 

Favourabie directions: West and south-wesl 

Lucky coiours: Grey, sky-blue and golden 


CANCER (21 June— 20 July) 

inf ^ Good health will generally prevail but when 
the quick-moving planets transit the 
adverse signs, minor complaints may 
occur These could be cured by ordinary 
treatment. Domestic life will be peaceful 
except during the first quarter. The year will be more 
or less satisfactory on the financial front. New 
ventures starting during the second half will be 
profitable. 

Good months: May, July and August 

Lucky numbers: 1 , 5 and 7 
Favourabie directions: North, east 
Lucky coiours: Blue, brown and ash 

LEO ( 21 July — 20 August) 

ijfWIjji Weakness and general ill-health may recur 
f during the year You will have some 

wearisome travels and consequent fatigue, 
complaints are likely 

I Chronic sufferers should take special care 

of themselves You will have domestic harmony for 
most months You should, however, be extremely 
careful about financial matters It is advisable to avoid 
speculation 

Good months: July, August and October 

Lucky numbers: 5, 7 and 9 
Favourabie directions: South-west, north 
Lucky coiours: Silver, biscuit and pink 

VIRGO (21 August— 20 September) 

High blood pressure and muscular 
complaints may trouble you but these will 
T ^ yield to medical treatments quickly. 

I J# g Domestic environment will be more or less 
r “S' " peaceful throughout the year. Financially, 
you will be in a sound position. Speculative 
transactions should be totally avoided. A smooth 
and satisfactory year is indicated in the real estate 
field. 

Good months: September, October and December 

Lucky numbers: 4, 6 and 7 
Favourable directions: East, north-west 
Lucky colours: White, red and yellow 






Libra (21 September— 20 October) 

H You are likely to have health troubles 
frequently. The critical period is 
mid-September to mid-October when you 
should be extra cautious. Chronic patients 
will have an aggravation of their ailments. 
Exercise restraint in your domestic life. You should 
exercise care in all financial dealings. Property 
transactions are unlikely to be profitable. You should 
seek help in advance of your requirements. Working 
conditions are not likely to improve for servicemen. 
White-collar workers will have a lean year. 

Good months: January, April and May 
Lucky numbers: 4. 6 and 9 
Favourable directions: North-west 
Lucky colours: Yellow, green and orange 


CAPRICORN (21 December— 20 
Jawa ry) 

Your health will require constant attention, 
if Chronic patients should be extremely 
B careful. Children’s health will cause 

concern. Domestic peace is likely to be 
1 disturbed. Financial affairs may not be 
satisfactory. Be on your guard against deceit. You 
should be cautious in investing in public issues of 
new companies. Be careful in your speculative 
deals. Conditions pertaining to real estate matters 
may not be promising. 

Good months: August. September and November 

Lucky numbers: 1 . 4 and 8 
Favourable directions: South, north 
Lucky colours: Blue, bottle-green and golden 


SCORPIO (21 October— 20 
November) 



A ' 111 Your health might create problems, but you 
r unduly concerned on this 

account. Chronic patients should be 
careful although the first half may offer 
them periods of respite Children’s health 
may cause some concern during the second half 
Domestic life will be peaceful throughout the year 
Financial affairs may not prove quite satisfactory. 
Worries and pressure for ready cash will be present 
particularly during the second half. 

Good months: February, March and April 
Lucky numbers: 2, 4 and 7 
Favourable directions: South, west 
Lucky colours: Biscuit, orange and chocolate 


AQUARIUS (21 January— 20 
February) 

You will enjoy normal health Chronic 
patients will have considerable relief. 
Children will be a source of happiness. 
Domestic life will be blissful. 

Financially, this is a very satisfactory year. 
Speculative ventures will yield good dividends. This 
IS an excellent year for real property matters. Labour 
problems will be resolved to your satisfaction. 
Acquisition of new properties is likely. 

Good months: September. November and 
December 

Lucky numbers: 3, 6 and 89 
Favourable directions: South, south-west 
Lucky colours: Ash, red and white 



SAGITTARIUS (21 November— 20 
December) 

You will enjoy excellent health throughout 
the year. Chronic sufferers should take 
advantage of the favourable planetary 
vibrations and endeavour to get i id of their 
ailments. You will have a blissful domestic 
life. Financial prospects are bright. You are likely to 
embark on profitable new ventures. Speculative 
deals will yield extremely handsome dividends from 
the very beginning. This is an excellent year for 
servicemen, professionals and businessmen. The 
year will bring happiness, joy and popularity for you. 
Love affairs will blossom into nnarriage. 

Q6dd months: March, May and August 
Lucky numbers: 5, 7 and 8 
Firvoufabte directions; North-west, south 
bddky'cotour^ Green, white and brown 


PISCES (21 February— 20 March) 

Health problems call for prompt medical 
attention The domestic front will be 
peaceful The year is unlikely to be 
1 ^^?^ prosperous, financially. Domestic matters 
. and unexpected travels ma> strain your 

budget. However, conditions will improve from 
mid-November. Speculative deals should be 
avoided Conditions relating to real estate will not be 
satisfactory and you should exercise caution before 
investing in property. Servicemen will find the 
conditions deteriorating during the first ten months, 
but should improve thereafter. Employed girls will be 
promoted and transferred to places of their choice. 
Good months: April. August and October 
Lucky numbers: 6, 7 and 9 
Favourable directions: East, west 
Lucky colours; Grey, silver and pink. 






Clean them all 


C?8giD ^ 

DHOBIS W 

AT 

WORK 




few are bothered about the 
complaints. 

It is left to see what new 
strategem our washermen 
friends adopt in the future. 


Malayan mobile 


mm 




■ Aleyamma Abraham, a 
nursing supervisor at the 
Woodbridge 
Developmental Centre, 
New Jersey hit the 
headlines recently. An 
Indian by birth, her name 
has been included in the 
1990 edition of the Who*s 


Who Of American 
Inventors for designing a 
medication cart used by 
nurses for dispensing drugs 
to patients. 

The new 

medication-dispensing 
cabinet will replace the 
heavier one that hospitals 
now use and ensure that the 
accurate medicine in 
desired doses is 
administered without any 
cumbersome procedures. 

Hailing from Kottayafn, 
Kerala, the nurse’s 
invention reduces medical 


■It was a major clean-up 
attempt. Over 3,500 
dhobis recently decided to 
wash in public the dirty 
linen of the Bombay 
Municipal Corporation and 
the state government which 
for long have overlooked 
their grievances. 

The recent protest was to 
highlight several problems, 
including the encroachment 
of their drying grounds and 
the lack of electricity. 

These factors are forcing 
the washermen to abandon 
their profession. 

The dhobi-ghat falls under 
the jurisdiction of the 
public health department of 
the corporation, but very 




miZE flS 200 FOR CONTRIBUTION 


1 

if 

- ' '' 

. f ' 

Rahul Gandhi 



Kunal Kapoor 


THIS INDIA 


cart costs from $2,000 to 
$250 each . And it is much 
faster and more efficient, 
administering medication 
to 32 patients over a 
24-hour-long period. 

Sipfbllclore 

■ It was Kut-Fest time in 
Manipur recently. The 
cultural fiesta organised 
yearly by the tribals, mostly 
the Chikimis, was a grand 
success with songs, fashion 
parades and beauty 
contests. 

The Chikim-Kut theme, 
rewritten on the lines ofWe 
are the world by H.T. 
Sangliana, enthused the 
congregation as did the 
gyrating dance 
performances of Mithun 
Jangpao. 

llie fashion parade 
hinted at the shape of 
things to come, and in its 
own way threatened to give 
Pierre Cardin a run for its 
money. 

And to end it all, pulses 
beat faster when a bevy of 
beauties took to the centre 
stage. 

It was a great show, and 
as one enthusiast 
noted: ‘Sip folklore and 
love galore.” 


BHOPAL: A government 
school teacher from Bilaspur 
has had the authority tangled 
in red tape since he had died 
on 30 September. For the 
drawing instructor has nomin- 
ated film actress Hema Malini 
to receive his provident fund 
and other dues. The 47-year- 
old Phoolchand Yadav’s 
aquaintances agree that the 
bachelor was infatuated wiih 
the star. And that he wanted 
her to get all his worldly 
goods. But Phoolchand has 
given, no address for his 
nominfe And this means that 
the ipHbtities do not know 
whonv^ send the papers — 
The iwtes of India (Tarlok 
Singfc, jC^andigarh) 


pRDV/lt>eND 
I FUMD 






ILLUSTRATiONBY OEBASM SH OEB 


CALCUTTA: State sports minister Subhas Chakraborty 
had the unnerving job of speaking to empty galleries at 
the East Bengal ground last week. He was presiding 
over the prize distribution of the women’s cricket 
championship. The winning team and the runners up 
were nowhere in sight, having adjourned to their dres- 
sing rooms for a change of clothes. The honourable 
minister, however, went on gallantly, looking for a 
non-existent audience in the vast football field . 

— The Telegraph (Debaroti Basu, Calcutta) 

KURUKSHETRA; The Ciovernor of Haryana, Ohanik 
Lai Mandal, has been having problems ever since the 
anti-reservation agitation began. First, the agitators 
thought that he was responsible for the Mandal 
Commission Report and some students even held a 
rally in front of Haryana Raj Bhavan at Chandigarh. 
Soon they realised that he was not the B*P. Mandal 
who headed the commission on reservation,^ but the 
Governor ‘s movements were severely restrit:;ted4uring' 
the stir — The Sunday Times (O.P. Bajaj, Jabalpur).. 


•UNOAV 30 OMtmbRr lBBO-6 Jahutfy 1B01 








RANDOM NOTES 


HEARD IN ALIPORE 

The only way to find the truth 
about Bofors is to lock Arun 
Nehru up in Surajkund and let 
Chautala loose on him 

SUBRAMANIAM SWAMY 


Their last 
refuge 

His first attempt at 
storming Delhi's 
political bastion proved 
rather abortive. But never- 
say-die (witness the way he 
clings to his non-existent 
film career) Rajesh Khanna 
is at it again, doing the 
rounds of the capital's poli- 
tical circuit, his best PR 
smile on call, in the hope of 
making something of his 
life in a new khadi-clad 
avatar. 

The media also comes in 
for a fair bit of attention, 
with a press conference 



Rajesh ICIiMtiMi: Meond 
tbmludcyT 


scheduled to help the ex- 
henomenon of the Bom- 
ay film industry put his 
views across to assembled 
hacks. But, to be fair to 
Khanna, his performance is 
very low-key — at least, 
when compared to that of 
Shatnighan Sinha. 

Rajesh, however, is not 
the only star in town. Arun 
(Ram) Govil is also much 
in evidence at the houses of 
influential politicos, ing- 
ratiating himself with those 
who matter. 

Not surprisingly then, 
nobodly notices the absence 
^ Shatnighan Sinha and 
Babbarin the corridors 
^ power. 


Atsea 

■ Hukum Deo 
Narayan Yadav 
shows all signs of turning 
into the Raj Narain of this 
government. 

Recently, representa- 
tives of the Indian fisheries 
industry went in delegation 
to meet the minister for 
food processing to apprise 
him of certain problems 
they were facing. Yadav 
gave them a patient hear- 


ing, and then asked them to 
get in touch with the Prime 
Minister's office, as he 
could not help them. 

He’d never seen an 
ocean in his life, he ex- 
plained rather endearingly, 
and didn’t have a clue how 
to help them. 


NigMMrd 

He may not have 
been terribly success- 
ful at containing the com- 
munal violence that broke 


out in his state. But there’s 
no denying M. Chenna 
Reddy's efficiency when it 
comes to clearing files: the 
former Andhra Pradesh, 
chief minister went through 
as many as 50 in the course 
of one night. 

It is, of course, another 
matter that he’d already 
been asked to leave by the 
Congress high command 
and most of the files per- 
tained to various appoint- 
ments. 

His succe$.sor, Janardhan 
Reddy, wasn’t in the least 
impressed by this sudden 
flurry of activity. And took 
the next flight to Delhi to 
complain to the party lead- 
ership about Chenna Red- 
dy’s nocturnal activities. 

And the poor man had to 
quit office a good four days 
earlier than scheduled. 


Fighting fire 
v^fire 

Kalvi-bashing has be- 
come the favourite 
pastime of women’s rights 
activists. And the hapless 
minister for energy has 
taken all the abuse without 
a murmur of protest, or 
even an attempt at defence. 

But clearly Kalyan Singh 
has had enough of suffering 
in silence. And has decided 
to hit out against his detrac- 
tors, beginning with BJP 
member Rajender Agni- 
hotri. 

Apparerttly, Agnihotri 
has submitted a question to 
the Lok Sabha secretariat, 
which he intends to put to 
Kalvi when the next session 
gets underway, pertaining 
to the minister's support of 
sa/i\ 

Kalvi, though, has his 
answer ready. As soon as 
the question comes up he 
intends to ask Agnihotri if 
he will agree to condemn 
his party leader Rajmata 
Vijayaraje Scindia on the 
same grounds. 

After all, the Rajmata 
had gone even further than 
Kalvi in her support of thf 
heinous practice. 

10S 


BAROMETER 







After Ershacl—how they rate in 
Bangladesh 

Sheikh Haslna Wa jed: Daughter of former Prime 
Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, she leads an 8 party 
alliance, which is the largest and most organised. She 
stands the best chance of becoming the country’s next 
Prime Minister. 

Begum Khaleda Zie: Wife of former dictator, 
General Zia-ur Rehman, she heads the second-largest 
party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party Her 
connections in the cantonment make her more 
acceptable to the country’s armed forces. She is certain 
to give Sheikh Hasina a run for her money. 

Kader (Tiger) Siddiqiie: He had to seek political 
asylum in India after Sheikh Muj'bur Rehman’s 
assasination. But he remained a legendary figure of the 
country's liberation war. He returned to Dhaka on the 
country’s Liberation Day (16 December, 1990) 
anniversary after 16 years in exile and is destined to 
play a major role in politics. 

Dr Kamal Hossain: Former foreign minister m 
Sheikh Mujib’s Cabinet, Or Hossain, who is now 
preparing the charge-sheet against ousted President ^ 
Efshad and his ministers, may play a key role because 
of his formidable international connections. 





General Nooruddin Khan: As chief of the 
Bangladesh army, General Nooruddin will play a key 
role in the following months. In the ultimate analysis, it 
will be the General who will determine whether the next 
elections are free or not. 

Ganaral Htissain Mohammad Ershad: is out 

but not down. He stiN has considerable followers in the 
country's villages. And has made it clear that he will 
contest tite next elections, despite his arrest. 





SUNDAY 30 Dtoambtr 1990-6 Jammy 1901 















DELHI DIARY 


Friends across 
the border 

■ A rather cosy 
friendship that the 
media have missed is the 
one developing between 
Nawaz Sharif and Chandra 
Shekhar. 

The Prime Minister met 
his Pakistani counterpart at 
Male and the two hit it off 
at once. This led Shekhar 
to make a conciliatory 
statement. The next day, 
the Indian Express carried 
an interview with Sharif in 
which he appeared to con- 
tradict Shekhar. At this, 
the foreign office lobby 
launched into a self- 
congratulatory orgy: never 
trust the bloody Pakistanis; 
they are all two-faced; 
Shekhar doesn't under- 
stand the nuances of fore- 
ign policy like we do, etc. 
etc. 

The following day Sharif 
repudiated the interview 
and sang Shekhar's praises 
leaving the foreign office 
speechless. 

Now, the two men talk 
regularly on the phone and 
keep inviting each other to 
visit their countries 


Queen is as 
Queen does 

Maneka Gandhi has 
learnt to cope with 
the got)d and the bad as a 
member of Chandra 
Shekhar's Cabinet. 

The good, first. At a* 
Cabinet meeting around 
five ministers jumped on 
her and attacked her on the 
usual grounds: environ- 
ment at the cost of develop- 
ment, etc. This was a nor- 
mal feature in V.P. Singh's 
day and Maneka was used 
to being attacked. Bu^ 
while the Raja would main- 
tain an enigmatic silence,. 
Chandra Shekhar rushed to 
her defence. 

She was overwhelmed. 

And now, the bad. 
Shortly after she t^k over, 
Maneka call^ Dn 

the RAX 

106 



HEARD IN NORTH BLOCK 

They’re changing its name to 
the Reliance Bank of India 


A CYNICAL BUREAUCRAT ON S 
VENKITARAMANAN’S APPOINTMENT AS 
■ GOVERNOR OF THE RESERVE BANK OF 
INDIA 



Mmska OaiHttil: Isaniiifg 
her lesson 


dared: ‘if my secretary is 
not shifted by tomorrow, I 
will not come to work." 

“Maneka," said Shekhar, 
“you are the second Mrs 
Gandhi 1 have known. I 
had a lot of respect for her 
and 1 have a lot of affection 
for you. But I didn't take 
any rude talk from her. 
And 1 won't take it from 
you. 

“If you don't want to go 
to work, don’t go. Why 
wait till tomorrow? Don't 


Icheck-listI 


The men who will cope with the 
financial crisis 

a Yashwant Sinha: The finance minister has had 
virtually no time for cases because he has been so 
preoccupied with broad outlines of policy Is in close 
touch with Chandra Shekhar about the crisis. 


m Digvijay Singh: Is emerging more and more as a 
key man in this regime and is much more important 
than his designation (deputy minister for finance) 
suggests. Is thinking up innovative schemes to raise 
finances. 


■ Manmohan Singh: As the PM’s economic 
advisor, he will set the broad outlines within'which 
economic policy will function. Bright and well-informed, 
he will serve as a counter-weight to S.K. Goyal 


a S«K. Goyal: Shekhar's economic guru of 
long-standing, he has refused to accept any post in the 
government but has been sitting m on ma)or economic 
policy meetings. 


a Subramaniam Swamy: His right-wing views 
have not been tempered at ail by his association with 
the more left-leaning Shekhar. Swamy’s forte is lateral 
thinking. He disdains the straight- jacketed approach of 
the civil service and has a capacity for original thought. 


a Kamal Morarfca; The silent strongman of the 
Prime Minister’s Office. Morarka is the Greta Garbo of 
this regime- so low is his profile. But because of his 
industrial experience, Shekhar turns to him for advice. 
And most important: he is the one man whose 
: judfil^iTi^pt the PM respects. 


go today.” He then hung 
up. 

Maneka got the mes^e 
and dropped the ultima- 
tum. Since then, her secret^ 
ary has been shifted out 
but, she tells friends, she 
has learned that it doesn*t 
pay to threaten Chandra 
Shekhar. 

Dontcross 

Swamy 

The Janata Dai gov- 
ernment is finally 
learning to cope with the 
bureaucracy. One of com- 
merce minister Subrama- 
niam Swamy's first actions 
was to fire S.V.S. Ragha- 
van, the head of Bharat 
Business International Li- 
mited (BBIL). This shook 
up the civil service but be- 
cause Raghavan was widely 
perceived as a V.P. Singh 
loyalist, nobody could do 
much. 

However, Swamy’s 
second order — to wind up 
BBIL — was something the 
bureaucrats could not take 
lying down. No sooner had 
Swamy left for Brussels 
than B.G. Deshmukh, 
Bimal Jalan ct al got in on 
the act. They went to see 
the Prime Minister in a de- 
legation and warned that 
Swamy’s “impetuous ac- 
tion" would cost India bil- 
lions. 

Chandra Shekhar was 
impressed by their argu- 
ments but before taking 
any action, he phoned 
Swamy in Belgium. 

The commerce minister 
was livid. He pointed out ! 
that foreign governments 
did business with India way 
before BBIL was set up and 
would continue to do so 
long after it was abolished. 
Moreover, he warned 
Shekhar, the bureaucracy 
had a vested interest in; 
keeping useless organisa- 
tions going. 

Shekhar got the message;^* 
BBIL was wound up. And 
all the bureaucrats cofi^-: 
cerned— by some remark^^ 
able coincidence— 

new jobs! / , ‘/’L/ 



SUNOAY 30 Dgcember 1990-S January 1«9t 













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CONTENTS 



31 


COVER STORY 


Bankrupt India 

How did we get into this 
mess? And is there a way 
out? 


10 

CONTROVERSY 


The Ram masjkl 

The VHP and the BMAC 
decide to meet. But will 
they also agree to give and 
take? 



12 

NEWSWATCH 


Hope and hoax 

Fake surrenders create a 
false sense of optimism in 
Kashmir. 


14 

NEWSBEAT 


On the hot seat 

Dissidence dogs the new 
Andhra Pradesh chief 
minister. 


BOFORS 


The final victory 

The Swiss investigating 
judge clears the Bachchans. 



n 

INTERVIEW 

"I think the likes 
of me are rare’’ 

Union minister 
Subramaniarn Swamy on 
law, commerce and 
himself. 



48 


CITYSCAPE 


How green was 
my city? 

Signs of urban decay are 
becoming increasingly 
apparent in Bangalore, 



LEnERS4 
SIGHT AND SOUND 7 
COUNTERVIEW B 
SPOTLIGHT 44 
MANI*TALK53 
NEWS 63 
HERITAGE 68 
Ringing in the old 
KHAASBAAT70 
BOOK EXTRACT 72 
Did Babur buHd this 
masjid? 

TELEVISION 80 

Prime-time ecramble 

PROFILE 82 

KalkaMLA 

MEDIA MUSINGS 84 
MILESTONES 87 
SUNDAYWEEK88 
RANDOM NOTES 89 
DELHI DIARY 90 


Cover transparency: 

Ashok vahie 



Printed and published for Ananda Bazar 
Patrika Ltd by Bijit Kumar Basu and 
edited by Vir Sangtivi from 6 & 9 Pratullat. 
Sarkar Street Calcutta 700 00 1 
Air surcharge for Srinagar ex- Delhi ar'" 

Tripura 20 paise, North-eastern sf/ 

30 paise 

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(' / 


O' 




LETTERS 



Hopes on the 
horizon 


T he Ram Janmabhoomi/ 
Babri Masjid issue {Af- 
ter the storniy 16 — 22 De- 
cember) threatens to tear 
the nation apart. This man- 
dir/masjid controversy has 
brought about the downfall 
of the V.P. Singh regime. 
Even historians and 
archaeologists cannot make 
up their minds about the 
causes of the dispute. 

However, the new Prime 
Minister, Chandra 
Shekhar, is making serious 
attempts to resolve the 
issue. He has succeeded in 
bringing to the table the 
contending parties, the 
Babri Masjid Action Com- 
mittee and the VHP. 

Therefore, if good sense 
prevails, the day is not too 
far off when a solution may 
be found. Otherwise, com- 
munal flare-ups will be the 
order of the day. 

Kail Charan Banmiae, Calcutta 
^aat Bengal) 

■ Chandra Shekhar made a 
major breakthrough by 
bringing the VHP and the 
Babri Masjid Action Com- 
mittee (BMAC) to the 
negotiating table. Though 
the meeting ended incon- 
clusively, the two parties 
agreed to meet again. Even 
the Congress' attitude 
seems to have changed. 

For, Rajiv Gandhi sug- 
gested that the best way out 
would be to institute a com- 
mission of enquiry, com- 
prising five sitting judges of 
the Supreme Court, to be 
selected by the Chief Jus- 


tice of India. And, if the 
appointment of such a com- 
mission created legal prob- 
lems, then its powers could 
be extended by an ordi- 
nance. Thus, with so much 
of goodwill around, one 
can surely afford to be opti- 
mistic. 

Pralay Ghosh, New Delhi. 

■ It seems that a solution 
to the mandir/masjid con- 
troversy is on the cards at 
last. With Chandra 
Shekhar making a sincere 
effort to bring the contend- 
ing parties to the negotiat- 
ing table and hardliners like 
Mulayam Singh Yadav 
announcing that a temple 
might be constructed, 
something positive is bound 
to happen. And, the sooner 
the better, as bloodshed all 
over the country threatens 
to tear the nation apart. 

S. Ahmed, Lucknow (Uttar 
Pradeah) 


Cause for cheer 


I ndia's win over Sri Lanka 
{Victory at last!, 9 — 15 
December) after a drought 
of 14 Test matches was a 
welcome change. Though 
Sri Lanka is in the process 
of rebuilding its side, India 
managed to come out with 
flying colours in all the 
three departments of the 
game — batting, bowling 
and fielding. The match 
will also be remembered 
for the unique achievement 
of Kapil Dev, who went on 
to equal Ian Botham’s re- 
cord of 376 wickets and be- 
came the second highest 
wicket taker after Richard 
Hadlee. Truly, a memor- 
able performance by the In- 
dians. 

C.K. Subramanlam, Madras 
(Tamil Nadu) 



H.M.Ersliad: toppled 


Do%maiidout 


D ictators never step 
down on their own 
( Fall of a dictator, 1 6 — 22 
December ). It took the 
people to bring down 
General Ershad. 

Politicians in India would 
do well to learn a lesson 
from the events in Bang- 
ladesh. Ultimately it is the 
people who decide. No 
matter what the circumst- 
ances. 

Arup Dutta, Patna (Bihar) 


Mixing up 


T 'he cover story ( The 
fires of Ram, 2 — 8 De- 
cember) was thought- 
provoking. The BJP's 
attempt to mix religion with 
politics has been successful. 
It is now fashionable for 
Hindus to talk about being 
discriminated against in 
India. 

In portraying the entire 
Muslim community as vil- 
lains of the piece — as has 
been suggested by L.K. 
Advani — the B JP leader 
betrays a fascist streak. 
Chlranjeeb Haidar Trivandrum. 

■ The sudden upsurge of 
fundamentalism in India is 
a result of V.P. Singh’s 
leadership. He was re- 
sponsible for stoking the 
fires of communalism by 
flirting with L.K. Advani in 
an effort to cling on to pow- 
er, regardless of the con- 


The Babri Mas]id: dividing the nation 



4 


SUNDAY »-12 JMiMry 1901 









Armymm looking for ULFA actMoU: olutivo 


sequences. The only differ- 
ence between V.P. Singh 
and L.K. Advani is that the 
former is a hidden com- 
munalist while the latter is 
quite blatant in his 
approach. 

Never before has India 
witnessed such violence 
and bloodshed in the name 
of religion. This state of 
affairs can only be attri- 
buted to V.P. Singh and his 
political ally, the BJP. 
yiJjn^ Moorthy, Purm (HHahar- 


Beneath the 
make-up 


R ekha is shedding cro- 
codile tears (Not guil- 
ty, 2 — 8 December). Her 
interviews with various film 
magazines and national 



Rekha: Innocentt 


dailies prove that she is tak- 
ing advantage of her stature 
as a leading actress in order 
to conceal the facts that lie 
behind the death of 
Mukesh Aggrawal. 
Hvmkrtmhna Mahania, NawDalhl 


Camouflaged! 


I t was for the first time 
that the links between 
the ULFA and the AGP 
has been publicised (Op- 
eration Bungle, 16 — 22 De- 
cember). The ULFA mili- 
tants are terrorists by day 
while at night they wear the 


AGP garb. The ULFA 
obviously has connections 
in the right places. 

It is apparent that the 
ULFA has been receiving 
arms and training from the 
National Socialist Council 
of Nagaland and the 
Kachin Independent Army 
of Burma. This poses a se- 
rious threat to India's 
security. 

Anthony, Bhubanaahwar 
(Ortaaa) 


Ignoring Ivan 


T he article (Russians are 
starving, ^ — 15 
December) about the food 
shortage in the Soviet 
Union raises a pertinent 
question. When the nations 
all over the world are 
helping them in their hour 
of need, why has India 
lagged behind? For, we 
should not forget one thing: 
that the Russians have been 
our friends through thick 
and thin , both in times of 
war and peace. Therefore, 
it is high time that India 
reciprocated this gesture. 

DInaah Kumar Pahufa, Naw 
M/I/ 

■ It is a matter of shame 
that the Indian government 
appears unaware of the 
present food crisis in the 
Soviet Union. At present, 
the Soviets could do with 
some help from India. The 
Soviet Union is the first 
country we turn to when in 
trouble. Now that they are 


going through hard times, 
India should put its best 
foot forward and rush to 
their aid. 

A friend in need is a 
friend indeed. 

Satlah K. Sharma,Jammu 
(Jammu and Kaahmir) 


Heal thyself 

I t is amazing that V.P. 

Singh considers himself 
the champion of the 
down-trodden ('* Chandra 
Shekhar can break the 
Congress, ” 2 — 8 
December). 

His attempt to 
implement the Mandal 
Commission Report was 
nothing but‘an effort to 
secure a vote-bank. The 
former Prime Minister 
deceived his countrymen 
for a long time and it is 
V.P. Singh: deceiving and 
deceived 



appropriate that he is no 
longer the leader of the 
nation. 

Raman Khatuwala, Haiaribagh 


Check your 
facts 

M y attention has been 
drawn to the state- 
ments made about me in 
the cover story (Who*s in 
who*s out, 9 — 15 Decem- 
ber). The allegations about 
my “unconscionable 
persecution" of Sarosh 
2^i walla, the sacking of his 
company and non-payment 
of his outstanding bills are 
totally baseless. I had no- 
thing to do with the engage- 
ment or disengagement of 
Z^iwalla and Company as 
solicitors to the Indian high 
commission in the UK. 
Zaiwalla had disputes ab- 
out his bills with the Indian 
high commission in London 
and the Union law minis- 
try. In no way was I con- 
cerned with that nor the 
alleged non-payment of his 
bills. True, I did not use my 
good offices in favour of Mr 
Zaiwalla as repeatedly re- 
quested by him, because 
settlement of bills between 
clients and their solicitors is 
not the role of the attorney- 
general. 

At no stage was I in- 
volved in any capacity with 
the suit filed by Ajitabh 
Bachchan against Dagens 
Nyheter. To say that I tre- 
ated the outcome of the suit 
as a personal affront, is 
pureV imaginary. 

The other allegation that 
“hardcore political activists 
actually run the show" on 
my behalf is a mischievous 
falsehood. The statements 
about the loss of my profes- 
sional credibility and repu- 
tation having been mud- 
died are grossly defama- 
tory. It is shocking that 
your correspondent did not 
have the decency to ascer- 
tain the facts from me. 

What he has done is no- 
thing but character assas- 
sination. 

SoUJ. Sorabiaa, format 
attemay-ganaral, Govamma 
lrHHa,mwDalhl 


WNOAVe— 12 Jtnuiry 1»1 






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SURELVRWIV.VOU 
jon'T believe all 
TKHTIE PRINTeJWTHE 
PAPERS/^ J 











vr^ 


I w 




VUV^, . 

<W'-, 



■ Thiscountr\ is knoNvn 
as the land of sati and jaati 
(caste). The question now 
is whether sati or 
Supanakha (the sister of 
Ravana) will be 
worshipped in our 
country? 

Kalyan Singh Kalvi, 
Union energy minister 

• It appears ridiculous 
that a Prime Minister 
having a group of about 
60 members in the 
Parliament should come 
out and commit to the 


tcrtonstsfoi amending 
the (’onstilution. 

K.L. SiiAKMA, BJP general 
secretary 

■ Why should he do that 
when lie has the majontv ? 
V.P. Singh did not resign 
even after the BJP had 
withdrawn support and he 
clearly lost majority in the 
Lok Sabha. 

S.F. Malaviya, Union 
petroleum minister, on the 
possibility of Chimanhhai 
Patel resigning 

■ If he (Chandra 
Shekhar) did make such a 
statement he probably did 
it to please the 
Congress(I) supporters in 
the state. 

jYo ri Bas j, West Bengal 
chief minister, reacting to 
reports that the Prime 
Minister had suggested 
that Centre would impose 
President's rule on the 
state if the law and order 
situation dia not improve 


■ There is no need to 
suspect any lack ot 
coordination between 
Prime Minister Chandra 
Shekhar and Congress! 1) 
president Rajiv Gandhi as 
the two are like a husband 
and wife team. 

Basankai Pm'ki,, Union 
mmistcf of stare for steel 
and mines 

■ The industry should 
not expect the 
government to stand by 
them. The intjrcsi of the 
government is primary 
and has to be protected. 

Kamal Mokarka, minister 
of state in the Prime 
Minister's Office 

■ This case is now 
settled. Everyone now 
agreesthat a temple should 
be built at the janniasthan 
site. Now the competition 
is who should share the 
fruits of building the 
temple. 

S.S. Bhandaki, BJP 
vice-president 


■ Too many excuses are 
preventing all of us from 
arriving at a cooling down 
stage 

Manf'.a ('ja.ndhi. Union 
minisier of state for 
environment, jm the 
Punjab situation 

■ I usually am (in love 
with an invisible man) 
because the man I'm in 
love with usually 
disappears. 

PoojA Bkdi, actress 








COUNTERVIEW 

VINOD MEHTA 


TheGuK and beyond 

Shekhar hopes that war will be avoided. Is his optimism justified? 


Before he realised 
his life’s ambition, 
Mr Chandra 
Shekhar had 
strong views on 
the crisis in the 
Gulf. He would 
denounce Super- 
power bullying of 
the Arab states, 
he would express suspicion of long- 
term American intentions in the re- 
gion, he would applaud the heroic 
struggle of the Palestinian people, and 
just about avoid praising Saddam Hus- 
sein (of course, he also faulted the 
invasion of Kuwait). Alas, the bur- 
dens of office have taken their toll.’ 
West Asia cannot be high on this gov- 
ernment’s list of priorities, but the 
Prime Minister is not the sort of man 
to be bound by mere agenda. There is 
hardly a subject under the sun which 
has escaped his eloquence, so we must 
ask whether Mr Chandra Shekhar’s 
silence on the imminent outbreak of 
hostilities in the Gulf is by design or by 
oversight. 

Addressing the Press Club in Delhi, 
the PM voiced, in passing, regret that 
President Saddam Hussein had not 
been able to avail of George Bush’s 
invitation for direct negotiations. But, 
as always, he ‘hoped’ that war would 
be averted. Whether it is Punjab or 
Kashmir or communal harmony, our 
Prime Minister is an inveterate hoper. 
However, as D-day approaches, hope 
may not be quite enough. As external 
affairs minister, Inder Kumar Gujral 
made some desultory efforts to muscle 
into the crisis in the role of an honest 
broker. Through personal diplomacy 
•or courtesy NAM or at the UN, Gu- 
jral did manage some weak and con- 
fused statements which while failing to 
shed light on the crisis did indicate 
New Delhi’s concern and interest. 

Does India have a Gulf policy? If it 
docs, the Brahmins of South Block 
have kept it well concealed. We 
oppose Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, but 
beyond that there is evasion, double- 
talk and contradiction — an art in 
which Indian foreign policy-makers 


could hold coaching classes with 
profit. 

I also detect more than permissible 
levels of wishful thinking. The Prime 
Minister is keeping his fingers crossed 
for a peaceful resolution and so are 
our bureaucrats, economists and plan- 
ners. Madhu Dandavate recently 
speculated on television that the price 
of oil could go up to $100 a barrel, 
and then added with a simle, “but not 
for long. It is a temporary phase." 
Therefore, the fear that an extra Rs 
4,000-5,000 crores could be added to 
India’s bill is considered remote. 
Everyone from the Prime Minister 
down is convinced that war will be 
avoided, oil prices will return to pre- 
crisis levels, and India’s balance of 
ayments graph will be normalised, 
uch is the confidence of the no-war 
lobby that the only question agitating 
their minds is when to withdraw the 
new hikes on petrol and petroleum 
products. Thus, while diplomatically 
we are disengaged from the conflict, 
we have convinced ourselves that what 


is going on in Washington and Bagh- 
dad is mere shadow boxing. 

I s our optimism justified? No one 
wants war, but the rush of events in 
the region is leading the world inexor- 
ably towards it. American calcula- 
tions, which we have swallowed hook, 
line and sinker, are based on one cen- 
tral premise: Saddam Hussein is a bul- 
ly, who like all bullies, will slink away 
when seriously threatened. All one 
has to do is successfully frighten him. 
As a result, assembled in Saudi Arabia 
is the largest concentration of men and 
hardware since World War II, armed 
with sanction from the United Na- 
tions, the Gulf Co-operation Council, 
Egypt and Syria. President Bush and 
his secretary of state keep emphasising 
the need to send Saddam Hussein a 
clear message: get out of Kuwait or 
“get your ass kicked". Indeed, the 
•American administration is certain 
that as 15 January approaches and the 
‘message’ is driven home, the Iraqi 
dictator will capitulate. 


The US and its allies, no doubt, have the capacity to smash Iraq into 
smithereens; however, Iraq too can inflict minor devastation on the 

region 




8 


SUNDAY »~12Jtnuary 1891 








If he does not — and there is an out- 
side chance he might resist since he is 
both ‘mad’ and ‘ruthless’ — the Iraqi 
army will revolt and do the needful for 
Washington. This expectation is based 
on the assumption that the generals in 
Baghdad, aware of the beating they 
’will get from the combined might of 
the international armada, prefer self- 
preservation to self-annihilation. A 
midnight coup in Iraq, according to 
this thesis, should not be ruled out if 
Saddam Hussein insists on provoking 
armed conflict. 

Both scenarios are, of course, 
plausible. However, there is a third 
scenario which seems to me to be even 
more plausible; war. The only way to 
avert this catastrophe is for Bush to 
meet Saddam Hussein at least part of 
the way. The Iraqi President’s record 
may be comparable to that of Pinochet 
of Chile, but he is no desert loony 
spoiling for a fight on burning sands. 
Indeed, he has nerves of steel and an 
unsuspected talent for brinkmanship. 
The US and its allies, no doubt, have 
the capacity to smash Iraq into smithe- 
reens; however, Iraq too can inflict 
minor devastation *on the region, par- 
ticularly on Saudi Arabia and Israel. 
The Iraqi army is no push-over; it is 
armed to the teeth and God alone 
knows vhat horrible weaponry its 
arsenals hide. 

A mericans do not mind wars as 
long as there are no casualties. 
Once US servicemen start dying, once 
aerial bombardment of Tel Aviv be- 
gins with attendant damage, George 
Bush will face mounting domestic 
opposition against continuing the con- 
flict. Presently, he is riding high be- 
cause Americans love the pageant and 
spectacle of war but not its coffins, 
tears and widows. 

As far as the bully is concerned, his 
people see him as a hero, another 
Nasser. All reports coming out of 
Baghdad suggest grim determination 
rather than irresolute panic. Iraq 
seems ready to take on the world; 
those who believe that this show of 
unified resolve is phoney could be in 
for a nasty surprise. If anything, Sad- 
dam Hussein is digging his heels in. 
Three weeks before the deadline ex- 
pired he annnounced with much fan- 
fare over Iraqi television that the erst- 
while rulers of Kuwait would never be 
reinstated. These don’t seem to be the 
words of a fringhtened man desperate- 
ly seeking a way out. If George Bush 
has domestic compulsions, so does 



Before he became the PM, Chandra Shekhar just about avoided 
praising Saddam Hussein. But now he expresses regret that the 
dictator had not been able to avail of George Bush’s invitation for 
direct negotiation 


Saddam Hussein, ('onsequently, if the 
Americans force a war on kaq, as they 
seem intent on doing, they will get a 
war. Having gone thus far. the Iraqi 
President cannot suddenly pull back — 
w'ith nothing to show for his labours. 
Then he would surely be deposed even 
if the army continued to stay loyal to 
him. 

.Saddam Hussein's so-callcd de- 
mands are more symbolic than real. 
He is prepared to leave Kuwait, and 
even negotiate the result of the Al- 
Sabah regime. All he is asking for is a 
formal commitment from the inter- 
naitonal community to address an 
Arab grievance that has languished for 
over decades for want of attention 
Let us concede that Saddam Hus- 
sein is playing games. Nevertheless, is 
there something sacrosanct about the 
January deadline? Iraq wants to 
send its foreign minister to Washing- 
ton on 12 January; Washington insists 
he must come on 3 January. Result: 
stalemate. Is George Bush's tinu 
table for war so inflexible that it can- I 
not accommodate a postponement of 
nine days? Will a week or twt' make a 
monumental difference in a five- 
month-long crisis, especially if the 
slight delay could lead to a peaceful 
solution? 

I n the White House these days, the 
word ‘linkage’ is positively taboo. 
American diplomats shun it, and 
George Bush asks his fellow citizens to 
read his lips; no linkage. Iraq's with- 
drawal from Kuwait has to be uncon- 
ditional; to allow Saddam Hussein to 
link it with the Palestinian problem is 
to suggest that the mighty United 
States can be hustled. 


What is so terrible about linkage? 
The Iraqi President’s advocacy of the 
Palestinian cause may be insincere, a 
ruse, but it has struck a chord in the 
entire Arab world. The same Security 
Council that issued six resolutions in 
seven days has been debating the illeg- 
al occupation of Arab territories by 
Israel for 23 years, but not one resolu- 
tion has been passed. Not only this, 
the Security Council took two weeks 
to issue a simple statement of concern 
for the safety and security of the 
Palestinians living in the West Bank 
and Gaza because the United States 
insisted on scrutinising every comma 
and full stop. As a result, the final 
resolution had so many afnendments 
that it was meaningless. 

How long will the US and Israel 
continue to defy world opinion? A 
homeland for the Palestinians and the 
existence of Israel in secure borders 
are not mutualy exclusive. Saddam 
Hussein does not insist on a solution 
to the problem before Jan 15, but the 
very least the Bush administraiton can 
do is to agree to convene an inter- 
naitonal peace conference in which 
both the PLO and Israel are repre- 
sented. Is that too much to ask? 

But first the childish quibbling over 
dates has to stop. Tariq Aziz must go 
to Washington, if necessary on 12 
January; James Baker must visit 
Baghdad soon after. If war breaks out 
in the Gulf because George Bush 
found a delay of nine days wounding 
American pride, the bloodbath in the 
Middle East will be on his conscience. 
I would love to hear Mr Chandra 
Shekhar’s views on the subject, but 
somehow I don't think he will speak 
up. • 


•UNDAV e-12 Jtnutfy 1891 


9 




CONTROVERSY 


The 





Ram masjid 

The VHP and the BMAC decide to meet. 
But will they also agree to give and take? 


R iots, shoot-outs, killings 
and the complete polar- 
isation of two communi- 
ties: the contentious Bab- 
ri Masjid/Ram Jan- 
mabhoomi issue has done it. And 
now, for the first time, a solution 
seems in sight with the Vishwa Hindu 
Parishad (^P) and the Babri Masjid 
Action Committee (BMAC) at last 
agreeing to meet at the negotiating 
table. 

On 23 December, the two organisa- 
tions submitted documentary evidence 
to support their claims to the home 
ministry. Three days later, they ex- 
changed the documents, giving each 
other enough time to understand the 
other’s agruments before the D-Day, 
10 January, arrived. Three-cornered 
negotiations between the BMAC, the 
VHP and the government are slated 
on that day. 

Both the VHP and the BMAC have 
submitted tonnes of documents, maps 
photographs, photocopies of police 
and judicial records to establish their 
claim on the mildewed, three-domed 
edifice in Ayodhya. The VHP has sub- 
mitted 89 pages of annexures and 21 
pages of “main body” to prove that 
Babri Masjid stands on what was 
Ram’s birthplace. And the BMAC has 
handed over 80 documents to show 
that Ram was a mythical figure and 
that the first Moghul king, Babur, was 
a secular man who could not have 
destroyed a “Ram Janmabhoomi” 
temple and build a mosque in its 
place. 

The VHP has quoted the sacred 
Hindu text, the Ayodhya Mahatmya, 
forming part of iii^.Skanda Parana, 
which, while singing the glories of the 
Ram Janmabhoomi shrine also places 
it west of the Lomash Ashram and 
north of the Vashista Kund. The VHP 
then goes on to add that all historical 
literature after 1528 AD states that a 


mosque was constructed by Mir Baqi 
on the same location. Moreover, the 
VHP has added in its evidence litera- 
ture that also attests that “Hindus con- 
tinued to consider this as their holy 
janmasthan shrine, kept returning to it 
to offer their devotion, occupied its 
courtyard in due course and built 
thereon a Ram chabootra and a Sita 
kitchen”. 

Countering historians, some of 
whom have said that Babur himself 
was quiet about the destruction of the 
temple in his memoirs, the VHP has 
said, “Babur reached the Ayodhya 
area on 28 March, 1528, and camped 
there for a short period to settle the 
affairs of Awadh. Unfortunately, in all 
known copies of Babur's diary, there 
is a break in the narrative between 2 
April and 18 September of I.S28.” 
Attributing this loss of pages to a 
storm on 17 May, 1529 or to 
Humayun’s stint in the desert after 
1540, the Hindu organisation has said, 
“Any reference to the destruction of 
the Ram Janmabhoomi temple would 









logically have to be found in those 
missing pages.” 

The fundamentalist Hindu organisa- 
tion has expectedly cited the con- 
troversial findings by the former direc- 
tor general of the Archaeological Sur- 
vey of India, Prof. B.B. Lai, who un- 
earthed a scries of brick pillar bases, 
dating back to the 11th century, five 
centuries before Babur built the mos- 
que. The excavations, carried out be- 
tween 1975- 198(*, had also unearthed 
Islamic glazed ware, dating from the 
11th century to the 14th century. The 
document, quoting the archaeologist, 
adds, “It is therefore clear that the 
evidence of the pillar bases, the glazed 
ware is conclusively in favour of the 


BMAC (left) and VHP laadera; time to think 



10 


<UMnAY»-*12 Jmuiry 19D1 








^ The BabriMasjid: eye of the storm 


thesis that a temple had existed on the 
janmabhoomi from the 11th through 
the 15th century and that it was des- 
troyed >n the 16th century. 

The exhaustive VHP documenta- 
tion also includes testimonies from 
Muslim scholars and writers. It has 
quoted Dr Zaki Kakorawi, for inst- 
ance, who brought out an abridged 
version of the Tarikh-i-Awadh which 
said, “Babur built a magnificent mos- 
que al the spot where the temple of 
janmasthan of Ramchandra was situ- 
ated in Ayodhya under the patronage 
of Saiyid Ashikhan and Sita ki Rasoi is 
situated adjacent to it. ' 



I f the VHP has painstakingly com- 
mented on all the evidence it has 
presented to the government, the 
BMAC has just submitted a list of all 
the articles and documents and pre- 
sented the annexures alongside. The 
main thrust of their argument is that 
Ram was a mythological figure and 
that Babur was a secular king who 
could not have destroyed a temple. 

Relying essentially on comments by 
historians and experts, the BMAC has 
submitted copies of Dr Sukumar Sen’s 
Origin And Development Of The 
Rama Legend and The Jataka, Which, 
for instance, show that the present 
Ayodhya is not the same place as Val- 
miki’s Ayodhya. It has also given 
copies of Rama, The Greatest Pharoah 
Of Egypt by Malladi Venkata Rat- 
nam, which shows that the Ramayana 
actually originated in Egypt. Besides, 
several newspaper articles and ex- 
tracts from books by other historians 
have also been presented. 

The pivotal part of their evidence, 
however, is Babur’s will which reads, 
“My son, there are different types of 
people in Hindustan. It is Allah’s 
grace that you are now the king.” The 
lirst Moghul king then goes on to 
make four points: “1) Don’t be 
swayed by religious intolerance. Take 
care of other people’s faith and do 
justice to all communities. 2) Desist 
from cow slaughter that you may win 


over the hearts of other people. 3) 
Don’t destroy other people’s places of 
worship and be just so that relations 
between the king and his populace 
may be cordial. 4) Don’t propagate 
Islam by force.” 

The BMAC package includes 
photocopies of letters, judgements 
and decrees showing exclusive posses- 
sion of the Muslims over the Babri 
Masjid, judicial records tracing the 
history of Mahant Raghubir Das’ 
plaint that a temple be built over the 
Ram chabootra in front of the masjid 
(the battle finally ended in favour of 
the Muslims with a sub-judge of Faiza- 
bad, Hari Kishan, denying permission 
for construction of a temple at the spot 
in 1885 and the judicial commissioner 
of Oudh upholding the decision in 
1886). 

Besides just tracing the historical 
antecedents of the Babri Masjid, the 
BMAC has also presented documents 
“showing the injustice and excesses 
against Muslims in independent Indi- 
a... arising out of the Babri Masjid/ 
Ram Janmabhoomi controversy since 
23rd December”. This includes first 
information reports, judicial orders 
and suits filed by various individuals. 

So the arguments continue with 
both sides providing exhaustive docu- 
ments, most of which contradict 
the other’s contentions. As the noted 
Delhi University historian, Cyan 
Pande said, “It is practically impossi- 
ble to identify a particular site as the 
place where Ram was born. You can- 
not prove anything about a period 
which dates so far back."' 

The possibilities of an early settle- 
ment of the issue, are, however, not 
too bright. Despite the semblance of 
civilised negotiations, the intransi- 
gence continues. VHP vice-president 
Surya Krishna had this to say: “How 
can any technical person or court de- 
cide whether Ram was born or not. 
For that we have to produce 
Kaushalya which we can’t do. We’ll be 
forced to intensify our agitation if the 
result of the meeting is not to our 
satisfaction.” BMAC convenor, Javed 
Habib, was more discreet: “We are 
here not to surrender but to work 
towards a settlement.” The silver lin- 
ing, if any, is a suggestion by another 
BMAC spokesperson: “When it com- 
es to the crunch, we are willing to let 
the edifice be renamed Ram masjid or 
something like that. Then you can de- 
dicate it to the nation.” And, only the 
talks of 10 January will indicate if such 
an approach can work. • 
mwidMimwDeM 


SUNDAY 6-12 JmiMiy 1991 


11 


NEWSBEAH 


Hope 


I 


I 


I Fake surrenders create 
a false sense of 
optimism in Kashmir 

A s President’s Rule in Jam- 
mu and Kashmir enters its 
second year on 19 Janu- 
ary, the central govern- 
ment is busy formulating a 
new policy to help restore normalcy in 
the Valley. Stating that the Kashmir 
crisis is high on the ruling Janata 
Dal(S)’s list of priorities, the par- 
liamentary secretary to the Prime 
Minister, Nakul Nayak, announced 
that the government's new policy was 
being formulated ih consultation with 
all political parties, including the 
National Confcreiice, headed by the 
former chief minister of the state. Dr 
Farooq Abdullah. 

According to Nayak, the situation 
in Kashmir was serious, but not as 
grave as during V.P. Singh’s tenure. 
“Militants are now getting isolated, 
and their latest surrender is a new sign 
in this regard,” he said. In a separate 
statement last week, the Union minis- 
ter of state for home and information, 
Subodh Kant Sahay, claimed that the 
situation in the Valley was under 
“near control”, with efforts being 
made to “bring back misguided people 
into the national mainstream”. The 
minister added that Chandra Shekhar 
was the only individual left who could 
make any headway in tackling the 
Kashmir problem. 

While the new Prime Minister’s 
record on Kashmir has certainly been 
more encouraging than his predeces- 
sor’s (he brought to an end the 72-day 
strike by state government employees, 
and has stated that he is open to 
dialogue with militants), the rule of 
the gun continues in the Valley. In 

SUNDAY fr-12 Januwy 1991 




fact, violence escalated alarmingly last 
month, despite the government’s in- 
sistence that militants are running 
scared. 

Both Nayak and Sahay are basing 
their optimism on reports that over 50 
militants belonging to the Hizb-ul 
Mujahideen, the Muslim Janbaaz 
force, the Tehrik-e-Jahad-e-Islam and 
the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation 
Front (JKLF) surrendered to the gov- 
ernment in mid-December, and more 
militants continued to do so. The state 
police chief, J.N. Saxena, had 
announced last month that his force 
had “responded adequately" to feelers 
sent by militants through their rela- 
tives that they wished to eschew vio- 
lence. However, independent sources 
state that the government’s claims are 
without real basis. What is actually 
happening, say sources, is something 
else. The government is making secret 
deals with the relatives of arrested 
militants, promising to release them if 
they signed a statement saying that 
they were laying down arms. “It is like 
caging a tiger and then saying that it 
has no claws," said one official. “In 
reality, there are no surrenders." Says 
another senior official in South Block: 
“At this stage, the militants could not 
eschew arms even if they wanted to, 
because they would be easy targets for 
terrorist attacks. Would the state be 
able to guarantee their safety? Very 
unlikely." 

“The very fact that Chandra 
Shekhar has chosen to reimpose Presi- 
dent’s Rule proves that the govern- 
ment is far from containing the situa- 
tion,” admits a senior home ministry 
official. The Prime Minister's state- 
ment that there was no way out 
besides the extension of Central rule 
in the state is a clear admission that 
the goveinment is aware of the ground 
realities in the Valley. Referring in- 
directly to the government’s plan to 
revive the state Assembly and rein- 
state Dr Farooq Abdullah, Jammu 
and Kashmir governor Girish Chandra 
Saxena said that “gimmicks" would 
not work for finding a lasting solution 
to the Kashmir problem. (He, howev- 
er, did not elaborate on what these 
“gimmicks" were.) For instance, the 
change of bureaucrats, including the 
state’s chief secretary, could only be- 
termed cosmetic, and would hardly 
make a difference to the situation on 
the ground. 

T he Prime Minister’s statement that 
despite the fact that President’s 
Rule had to be reimposed, he was 


willing to go as far as amending the 
constitution if it helped him initiate a 
dialogue with the militants, clearly 
shows that the government is keen to 
follow the two-pronged carrot-and- 
stick policy followed by the V.P. Singh 
regime. The government’s advisors on 
Kashmir realise that there is no ques- 
tion of initiating any political process 
in the Valley. On their part, the 
militants, for obvious reasons, have 
done what they could to stall any 
efforts in this direction. This was made 
amply clear recently, with the assas- 
sination of the 88-year-old freedom 
fighter and founder of the Muslim 
Conference, Mohammed Sayeed 
Masoodi. The militants have systema- 


mad Sayeed’s daughter. Dr Guru’s 
release was one of the three main 
demands of the 1,50,000-strong state 
government employees’ coordination 
committee, which spearheaded the 
72-day long strike. 

While government sources main- 
tained that Dr Guru’s release was the 
first step towards the beginning of a 
dialogue with the militants. Dr Guru, 
himself, was unaware of any such 
plans. TTie morning he reached Srina- 
gar, and was welcomed home by his 
relatives and hundreds of well- 
wishers, he was unsure what the gov- 
ernment had in store for him. “I was 
put into a car and brought to my house 
in Srinagar," he told Sunday. Asked 


^^Chandra Shekhar 
may be a good 
man, but he is still 
part of the same 
government that is 
crushing us,** says 
a leading JKLF 
leader 



tically stalled all moves in the political 
direction, and this is one of the major 
hurdles that the present government 
will have to encounter. 

Government sources claim that 
efforts are on to establish some sort of I 
a link with the militants through those ’ 
political and militant leaders already 
in jail. Though there is no question of 
“talks" at this point, these moves have 
helped both sides to “further guage 
the mood", it was believed. Militant 
sources, however, deny that there has 
been any attempt to initiate dialoque 
with them. 

^ On 23 December, Dr Abdul Ahad 
Guru, a leading cardiac surgeon, was 
released from Hiranagar jail, 70. 
kilometres from Jammu, after over 
three months. The doctor had been 
charged with aiding the secessionists; 
earlier he had played a major role in 
the release of Rubaiya Sayeed, the 
former home minister Mufti Moham- 


to comment on the time he spent in 
jail, he replied, “All Kashmiris are 
going through bad times, and this was 
no different." 

While the release of Dr Guru is a 
step in the right direction (the govern- 
ment would have been going back on 
its word if it hadn’t released him), it 
seems unlikely that there is any scope 
for dialogue yet. “Chandra Shekhar 
may be a good man, but he is still part 
of the same government that is 
crushing us," maintained a leading 
JKLF leader. “So there is no question 
of giving up, and no question of talks 
unless they stop bringing the army in 
and killing us." 

With both sides literally sticking to 
their guns, peace will continue to 
elude the Valley through yet another 
long winter of discontent. Despite the 
government’s claims to the 
contrary. • 

Sfilrsz SMhMi/Me w Mhf . 


SUNDAY »-12JwMry 1991 


13 


NEWSWATCH 


On the hot seat 


Dissidence dogs the new Andhra Pradesh chief minister 


W hen Nedurumalli 
Janardhan Reddy, the 
55-year-old school 
teacher turned politi- 
cian finally made it to 
the chief minister’s chair on 17 De- 
cember, he knew he had settled for a 
hot seat. He was faced with three for- 
midable tasks: ending the communal 
strife in Hyderabad, containing the 
Naxalites in rural Andhra Pradesh and 
checking the dissidence with his own 
Congress! I). Slipping on any one of 
these could cost him the coveted post. 

So far he has succeeded on one 
score, though it is still too early to say 
whether the gains will be lasting. The 
communal violence that shook the 
state capital Hyderabad for ten days 
since 7 December, appeared to end 
abruptly with the exit of former chief 
minister Chenna Reddy and Janar- 
dhan’s rise to power. Fixactly two days 
after the new chief minister took over, 
M.B. Bhaskar, the city police commis- 
sioner, told the press on 19 December 
that day-curfew was being lifted in 
most parts of Hyderabad from that 
day. The situation was calm in neigh- 
bouring Ranga Reddy district as well, 
from where large-scale rioting was re- 
ported even a couple of days earlier. 
The communal orgy had claimed 130 
lives and Chenna Reddy’s mantle, 
forcing him to step down in favour 
Janardhan. Incidentally, the latter had 
missed the top slot thrice earlier. 

If Janardhan managed to quell the 
violence with surprising swiftness, he 
seemed all ends up as far as the Naxa- 
lites were concerned. On 20 Decem- 
ber, the People’s War Group (PWG), 
led by Kondapalli Sitharammaiah, 
went on yet another kidnapping spree, 
with the administration looking on 
helplessly. The Naxalites picked up 
eight persons at will, including a BJP 
legislator, V.Jaypal, of Parkal, in 
Warangal district, while setting free 
ten out of the 13 people they had 
abducted earlier. 

On 22 December, the PWG struck 
again by taking ten more men hos- 
tage — four from Nalgonda district, 
four from Warangal and one each 
from Mahboobnagar and Srikakulam 
districts. The Naxalites thus held 21 


people in custody at one point of time. 
Among them was an engineer of the 
state electricity board, a State Bank of 
India official, a Mandal president be- 
longing to the Telugu Desam party, 
and a railway station master, besides 
the BJP MLA. Actually, the kidnap- 
pings were a sequel to an earlier inci- 
dent on 20 December in which three 
PWG workers were killed in police 
firing after they defied prohibitory 
orders. “Our kidnappings now are to 
protest against that police firing when 
we were trying to hold a public meet- 
ing in a democratic manner," said 
Ashok Kumar, secretary of the 
PWG’s south Telengana regional com- 
mittee, in a note circulated among the 
Hyderabad media. The government 
defence, however, was that the police 
had been forced to open fire, as the 
PWG barricaded an important high- 
way, blocking all traffic. 

While the Naxalites were virtually 
ruling certain districts, the chief minis- 
ter flew to Delhi to get his list of 
ministers approved by the C 'ongress(I) 
high command. And while he waited 
in the capital, he faced a critical press 
which wondered whether he was cool- 


ing his heels while his state was being 
rocked by communal clashes and 
Naxalite attacks. “Where is the com- 
munal tension? The situation is now 
completely under control," shot back 
the angry chief minister, adding that 
he was closely monitoring the situa- 
tion back home. As for the Naxalites, 
he said that they would be treated like 
any other citizen and refused to elabo- 
rate. 

Before he got to meet Congress(I) 
president Rajiv Gandhi, Reddy dis- 
cussed the Naxalite problem with the 
Union minister of state for home, Sub- 
odh Kant Sahay, who is said to have 
suggested the setting up of a special 
institute for training a commando 
force to deal with the PWG. The Cen- 
tre has promised to meet 50 per cent 
of the cost and advance interest-free 
loan to cover the rest. Sahay has also 
advocated a special action plan en- 
compassing administrative, economic 
and social measures to neutralise the 
PWG influence Obviously, he wants 
to follow a carrot-and-stick policy to 
prevent the youth from straying into 
extremism. But whether the policy 
will work remains an open question. 



14 


tUIIDAYe-12 Jwwaiy IfBt 




J anardhan Reddy’s biggest hete 
noire could, however, be the dissi- 
dents within his own party. No sooner 
had the new chief minister been sworn 
in than storm clouds began to gather 
around the perennially shaky chair. 
Even on the day he took oath and was 
sworn in as the chief minister of a 
one-man Cabinet (he could not form a 
ministry straightaway because of the 
contending factions) Reddy was 
embarrassed by his arch-rival Sriniva- 
salu Reddy who declared that he had 
already begun preparing a list of 
charges against the new chief minister. 

Srinivasalu waahe education minis- 
ter in Chenna Reddy's Cabinet. He 
quit the ministry during its final mo- 
ments in protest against the manner in 
which the communal violence and the 
Naxalite problems were being hand- 
led. He was clearly in the race to 
succeed Chenna, but failed to muster 
enough support in his contest with 
Janardhan, his long-time rival from 
Nellor district. And the frustrated Sri- 
, nivasalu got down to his revanchist act 
in real earnest. ‘ I have already got 
fifty charges against him and before 
the end of this month (December) I 
shall have a hundred to be sent to the 
party high command," he threatened. 
Understandably, he has not found a 
berth in the new Cabinet. 

Intra-party rivalries are nothing new 
to Congress culture, but on 22 Decem- 
ber, the day the Cabinet was sworn in, 
the tussle reached reprehensible and 
tragic proportions. Panchayali Raj 


The communal 
violence that rocked 
Hyderabad for ten 
days ended 
abruptly with 
Chenna Reddy’s 
resignation. Exactly 
two days after the 
new chief minister 
took charge, 
day-curfew was 
lifted in most parts 
of the troubled city 




Janardhan Reddy 
(left) has taken 
only four members 
from Chenna 
Reddy’s (right) 
Cabinet Into his 
ministry. But he will 
have to give berths 
to a few more to 
end the dissidence 



minister Maganti Ravindranath 
Chowdhary died of cardiac arrest fol- 
lowing a fist-fight with a rival. The 55- 
year-old Chowdhary was an arrack 
contractor and a film producer, who 
had a long-standing quarrel with 
another arrack dealer from his native 
I^luru town in West Godavari district. 
His rival too was a Congressman and 
had sworn to destroy Chowdhary's 
career. 

After the searing-in shortly after 
noon, Chowdhary arrived for lunch at 
a leading film producer’s house, only 
to find that his rival too had been 
invited. The two broke into a fight. 
Chowdhary was reportedly slapped 
and his shirt torn. Soon after that, he 
complained of chest pain and col- 
lapsed. He was pronounced dead 
when taken to hospital. 

T he new ministry has 11 Cabinet 
ministers besides the chief minis- 
ter, and six ministers of state. The 
team seems small compared to omni- 
bus ministries in some other states, 
but Janardhan has promised Cabinet 
expansion in due course. The present 
ministry does not give representation 
to seven districts and after Chow- 
dhary 's death. West Godavari too is 
without its nominee. Though the chief 
minister promised to accommodate 
them, the disgruntled elements have 
clready rebelled against Reddy. A for- 
mer minister in Chenna's Reddy’s 
C'abinet threatened to quit the party in 
protest against being left out of the 
new ministry. Another legislator, Sri- 
pada Rao, from Manthani, in Karim- 
nagar, also issued a similar threat. 

Only four men from the outgoing 
Chenna Reddy ministry have been 
luc-ky enough lo be brought back, one 
of them being Chittaranjan Das, a 


close associate of the Andhra Pradesh 
Congress(I) Committee (APCC-I) 
president, V. Hanumantha Rao. The 
state party chief is. however, still sulk- 
ing after being edged out by Janar- 
dhan Reddy in the race to the chief 
ministership. Though he has suc- 
ceeded in getting three or four of his 
followers into the ministry. Rao is up- 
set over the fact that the new team is 
heavily loaded in favour of the Red- 
dys, with as many as seven members 
‘from that community. 

In the power struggle that followed 
Chenna's fall, Janardhan Reddy was 
backed by three assertive chieftains — 
Jalagam Vengal R« o, P.Shiv Shankar 
and P.V.Narasirnha Rao. It was 
rumoured therefore that their sons 
would be given imoportant portfolios 
as a mark of gratitude. But only Ven- 
gal Rao's son Jalagam Prasada Rao 
was taken in. Party insiders say that 
Narasimha Rao disfavoured the idea 
of their sons joining the ministry and 
thus scuppered the prospects of his 
own son, P.V. Ranga Rao. And de- 
spite drawing big crowds and lusty slo- 
gans for his inclusion into the ministry 
from his followers. Shiv Shankar's son 
and State youth Congress leader 
Sudhir Kumar failed to make it. What 
went against him was the fact that he 
was indicted by a human rights group 
led by Swami Agnivesh of having been 
involved in the communal riots. 

But the dissidents have reasons to 
feel hopeful. After all, the ministry is 
still small and Janardhan has promised 
its expansion to take in a few more 
grumbling Congressmen. But even an 
airbus Cabinet will not satisfy all and 
given the pockets of intrigue within 
the party, Janardhan Reddy may not 
ever be able to fly high. • 
R^Bhagwan Singh/Hyderabad 


lYS-12JMHwylMl 


15 



BOFORS 


The 

fin al victo ry 

The Swiss investigating judge 
clears the Bachchans 


I t was a development that 
attracted surprisingly little 
attention. On Friday, 21 De- 
cember, Paul Perraudin, the 
judge investigating the Bofors 
accounts in the Swiss canton of 
Geneve issued an order exonerating 
Ajitabh and Amitabh Bachchan in 
the Bofors case. 

The ruling came in response to a 
CBl request to investigate the Bach- 
chans' alleged involvement in the 
Bofors case. While neither Ajitabh 
nor Amitabh were mentioned in the 
First Information Report (FIR) filed 
by the CBI, their names were com- 
municated to the Swiss on 24 January, 
1990, in a letter from K. Madhavan, 
the CBI officer in charge of the case. 
Madhavan wrote to Pierre Schmid of 
the Swiss justice department claiming 
that he had now found evidence 
against various others including the 
Bachchan brothers. Could the Swiss, 


therefore, investigate them as well? 

Schmid passed Madhavan’s letter 
on to Perraudin, who was entrusted 
with the actual investigation. Later, 
the Indian Letter Rogatory (LR) in- 
cluded the names of 42 ‘suspects'.. 
Among them were the Bachchans; 
Ajitabh's pharmaceutical company in 
Switzerland: and Yves Pirenne, a 
Swiss lawyer whom Ajitabh has con- 
sulted. Moreover, the LR also asked 
the Swiss to freeze an account at Pictet 
and Company, a Swiss bank. This 
account was allegedly owned by 
Ajitabh and perhaps, managed by 
Pirenne. 

Judge Perraudin notes in his ruling 
that he found nothing to link any of 
these entities with Bofors. (For inst- 
ance, Ajitabh has no account at Pic- 
tet.) But as Madhavan had claimed to 
have some information in his letter of 
24 January, 1990, Perraudin wrote to 
the Indian government (on 23 July, 


BACHCHAN AND BOFORS ■ An eventful mr 


The Investigator 




1990) asking for this evidence. 
According to Perraudin, no response 
was forthcoming. 

Nevertheless, the judge waited till 
he had examined the papers relating 
to the five Bofors accounts in his can- 


The Request 






The Indian oovemment’s Letter Rogatoty 
names 4/ ‘suspects’, including both 
Bachchans and their lawyer. They protest 
saying there's no evidence , 


SUNDAY 6-12 January 1991 















ton (Lotus, Tulip, Mont Blanc, 
Jubilee and Svenska) before exonerat- 
ing the Bachchans. Once it became 
clear to him who the owners of these 
accounts were — and that the Bach- 
chans were not involved — he 


announced his decision. On 7 Decem- 
ber, 1990, Perraudin sent Schmid an 
official ordinance declaring that he 
had found that the Bachchans had no- 
thing to do with the Bofors accounts. 
If the justice department had any evi- 


Schmid's role was crucial because 
under Swiss law he is, effectively, the 
Indian government’s lawyer. The CBI 
has no right of audience before a Swiss 
judge, so Schmid’s department repre- 
sents its interests. 

Schmid received his copy of Per- 
raudin’s ruling on 10 December, 1990. 
(Schmid operates out of Berne while* 
Perraudin is based in Geneve.) He 
had till 20 December to file his objec- 
tions. 

On 21 December, having received 
no appeal from Schmid, Perraudin 
communicated his decision to the 
Bachchans. They were, he declared, 
now completely exonerated. 

W hile senior members of thfe 
Chandra Shekhar government 
are aware of this development, there 
has been no official response from the 
CBI which, presumably, is in regular 
touch with Schmid's office. The Bach- 
chans themselves also seem to have 
little inclination to flaunt the order. 
Says Amitabh, “I am past the stage 
where 1 have to go around handing out- 
character certificates from foreign 
governments. It was the V.P. Singh 
regime that politically victimised me 
and humiliated me by asking the Swiss 
to investigate me even though there 
was not a shred of evidence to link us 
to Bofors. Now that the Swiss have 
exonerated us, I would expect my gov- 
ernment to make this public. I don’t 



SUNDAY 6-12 January 1991 


17 





BOFORS 


Retirement benefit 

The Supreme Court stays Justice Chawla's order 


I t was one of the sorriest of epi- 
sodes in the history of the Indian 
judiciary. When Justice M.K. 
Chawla of the Delhi High Court 
retired, la\^ers launched a signa- 
ture campaign against giving him a 
farewell party. The party was held 
but attendance was thin. And 
Chawla departed to the sound of 
insults being hurled, at him. Some 
lawyers said that he had behaved 
like a cheat and not a judge. Said 
Ram Jethmalani, “The misfortune 
was that there are such Chawlas in 
every court in the country. The 
next battles should be fought not 
against corruption of politicians but 
against corruption of judges. “ 

The provocation for such insults 
was Chawla's behaviour in the last 
case he heard: a petition seeking to 
^ash the Bofors investigation. 
Tbis was a petition that nobody 


have to prove that Tm innocent. “ I 

For the CBI, the new development I 
takes on an added significance be- 
cause of the unusual circumstances 
surrounding Madhavan’s letter to the 
Swiss last January. 

The CBI’s FIR had named only 
those individuals and entities who had 
been identified by The Hindu. Then, 
Madhavan and two colleagues flew to 
Switzerland to meet Schmid and to ask 
him to freeze the five accounts that 
had been traced by The Hindu. 

What happened at that meeting re- 
mains a subject of some controversy 
but the Indian investigators told the 
press that Schmid had informed them 
of the existence of a sixth account in 
the name of Ajitabh Bachchan. The 
Indians asked him to freeze that too 
and Madhavan wrote Schmid a letter 
asking for 19 individuals and entities 
to be investigated — among them were 
the Bachchans. 

It was this version of the Schmid- 
Madhavan meeting that was leaked to 
Dagens Nyheter, the influential Swed- 
ish daily. Dagens Nyheter then front- 
paged a story claiming that Ajitabh 
owned the sixth Bofors account and 
this, in turn, was picked up by the 
Indian media. 

Ajitabh sued Dagens Nyheter in 


thought had much chance of suc- 
ceeding until Chawla began de- 
monstrating a certain sympathy for 
the petitioner. When the V.P. 
Singh government resigned and 
Shekhar's regime took office, 
Chawla grew bolder. 

That was when various political 
parties sought to be impleaded in 
the case. Chawla refused to hear 
them and shortly before he was due 
to retire, ruled in favour of the 
petitioner and quashed the inves- 

JustlM Chawla: takhig site 



both London and Stockholm for libel. 
The paper's defence collapsed even 
before the English trial could open 
and its lawyer told a London court 
that Dagens Nyheter withdrew the 
allegations. It had, he said, been mis- 
led by the Indian investigating team. 
Ajitabh won apologies and damages in 
England and Sweden. 

By then, Chitra Subramaniam had 
located the real sixth account which 
stood in the name of a company called 
Jubilee Finance and had nothing to do 
with the Bachchans. The Indian inves- 
tigators denied that they had ever 
claimed that Ajitabh owned the sixth 
account and in a bizarre twist, blamed 
Chitra for planting the story in Dagens 
Nyheter. 

Perraudin's ruling finished the pro- 
cess begun by the Dagens Nyheter libel 
case. If that proved that Ajitabh did 
not own the sixth account, this order 
conclusively establishes that neither 
^achchan brother has any connections 
with the Bofors pay-offs. 


tigation. 

Much to the relief of those who 
had been following the case, the 
Supreme Court stayed Chawla’s 
order and the investigation pro- 
ceeded as though nothing had hap- 
pened but the entire episode had 
brought the judiciary into disrepu- 
te. Some of what Chawla said in 
court was difficult to justify. At one 
stage, he even claimed that “the 
CBl is not a legally constituted 
force which can be entrusted with 
the Bofors investigation". And his 
behaviour often gave the impress- 
ion that he had only one aim: to 
quash the inquiry and retire. 

Fortunately, the case will now be 
dealt with fairly in the Supreme 
Court and most lawyers do not be- 
lieve that Chawla's judgement will 
hold up. 

IHiuSaHn/HewiMM 


L aw minister Subramaniam Swamy 
has declared that he will not trans- 
fer the members of the Bofors investi- 
gating team (though additional solici- 
tor-general Arun Jaitley, who helped 
with the legal aspects, has resigned). 

This means that Madhavan and his 
associates will continue. So far they 
have had one success — they got the 
papers relating to the AE Services 
account in Zurich though the docu- 
ments make out that a Jordanian owns 
the company. But there have been 
many failures: the rejection of the 
Bofors LR in Geneve; the Dagens 
Nyheter libel case; the informal rejec- 
tion of the HDW LR; and now, 
Madhavan's total failure to provide 
any evidence whatsoever to back up 
his request to investigate the Bach- 
chans, followed by their total exonera- 
tion. 

In the process, the country has 
grown weary of Bofors. Because the 
investigators made such extravagant 
claims and framed innocent people, 
they succeeded in diverting attention* 
from the real issues. 

It is in India's interests to hope that 
after the humiliations of 1990, the in- 
vestigators will seem less like the 
Keystone Cops in 1991. 

VlrSifuM 


18 


ailllDAVe-12 JinMiy 1991 





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''I think the 
likes of me 
are rare” 

Subrctmaniam Swamy on law, commerce 
and himself 


He is one of a kind. Subramaniam 
Swamy is the only minister in recent 
memory who has also been a full 
professor at Harvard. As a politician, 
he has demonstrated that he not only 
holds strong views but hangs on to 
them. Twenty years ago when he 
entered politics, he stood for a free- 
market approach to the Indian 
economy, pressed for improving 
relations with China and believed that 
India should go nuclear. He says that 
he still owns up to all those positions. 

But what will Swamy be like in 
government? Will Cabinet office 
mellow him? Will circumstances force 
him to abandon his right-wing 
economic views? 

Sudeep Chakravarti met the new law 
and commerce minister in New Delhi 
to obtain some answers. 

Sunday: Chandra Shekhar is a social- 
ist and you harbour right-wing econo- 
mic views. How do you reconcile the 
two? 

A: I think this is the essence ot 
democracy, that we must respect each 
other’s views. And as long as men of 
integrity come together, it's possible 
to work out a compromise. 

Mr Chandra Shekhar is not a doctri- 
naire socialist and I also am not a 
doctrinaire rightist, in the sense that 
my right wing views hn economics — 
on market economy — are tempered 
with a sense of nationalism. So, my 
views have an interaction with Mr 
Chandra Shekhar's. Where the self- 
reliance question comes in. 

Q: Is that why you get along so well? 

A: No. 1 think we both respect each 
other. We've been for a long time 
together. And we've had periods 
when we’ve even fought each other. 


But essentially, Chandra Shekhar has 
a large heart, and when he starts 
trusting, he trusts a lot. And he’s very 
accomodative. 

And as a consequence, he makes 
fun of my market economy views but 
at the same time, when 1 present the 
logic of a situation, he accepts it. 1 also 
know that the systems can’t change 
overnight. It has to be done at a 
margin each time. So, I think that 
we’re both good Hindus (laughs) and 
we know how to compromise with 
reality. 

Q: Do you think that the previous 
administration tried to push things a 
bit too far a bit too fast? 

A: No, the problem with the previous 
administration — namely, of V.P. 
Singh — is that they were totally con- 
fused. 

Q: In what way? 

A: Well, they didn’t know which 
direction to take. And partly because 
they were supported on one side by 
the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and 
the other side by the left. And Mr 
V.P. Singh wanted to appear a leftist. 
But the compulsions of the internal 
situation was that he had to take 
certian right-wing steps. And that’s 
why he fluctuated from one corner to 
another. 

Q: Do you think that V.P. Singh might 
have been scared off by Chandra 
Shekhar's criticism of the proposals? 

A: Well, in that case it means that they 
had no conviction. Mr Chandra 
Shekhar is not scared off by anybody. 
For example, he has openly said that 
we have to take on IMF (International 
Monetary Fund) loans because of the 
situation we are in. Can anyone scare 
him off? No. 



Q: You just went to Brussels for the 
GATT talks and before you’d left, you 
said that you wouldn't give an inch. 

A: Yes, on patent law. 

Q: But it seems that nobody gave an 
inch. 

A: No, that’s not correct. That’s how it 
comes out, but it’s not like that. They 
(the US) didn’t yield much on agricul- 
ture, that’s why the conference broke 
down. But on textiles, on services, on 
a number of other areas, we had 
worked out quite a few things. 

Q: What about patent laws? 

A: That’s a mandate given to me by 
the Prime Minister, that we should not 
modify it. And when I went into depth 
with him, it became quite clear that 
our differences with the US on patent 
law is only in the area of product 
patents. And that too, largely for the 
pharmaceuticals industry. But on the 
issue of process patenting, copyright, 
design, trademarks, on a whole varie- 
ty of issues in the patent law area, we 
have not much differences with the 
US. 

Q: Do you have any differences of 
opinion with the Prime Minister on 
multinational companies? I ask you 
this because right now the two most 


22 


SUNDAY 6-12 January 1991 




topical multinationals In India are 
PepsiCo Inc. and Union Carbide Corp. 
(UCC). 

A: Well, PepsiCo is in now and as long 
as they live up to their commitments 
on export obligations, Fll not trouble 
them. But if they do not live up to 
their commitments I will not hesitate 
to initiate action. 

Q: Pepsi seems to be a little defensive 
because they've had enough publicity 
which focuses on this export commit- 
ment bit. And what they’ve been going 
around saying in the US for example, is 
that they are being victimised. 

A: In what way are they being victi- 
mised? If they have made a written 
commitment for export obligations 
they must live up to it. If they don't, 
ril take action. 

Q: What about Union Carbide Corp? 

A: The previous government has made 
a big to-do about it so I decided as law 
minister to engage the previous coun- 
sel, that is the attorney general, now 
ex-attorney-general. Soli Sorabjee. So 
that there is no misunderstanding on 
it. We re going to continue the old 
policy. 



V.P.SINGH 

"I know from 
records that Mr V.P. 
Singh had gone to 
Stockholm on the 
lOthof June, 1985, 
and had 
cloeed-door 
meetinge with the 
people there on the 
Bofors lesue. He 
still haen’t told the 
country what 
happened ” 


Q: Du you think it is justified that after 
a government or let's say a court has 
agreed to a compensation of US$ 475 
million, to review the case? Aren’t you 
in that way using conscience to back- 
track on a commitment? 

A: If 1 was not a minister 1 would have 
answered your question. 

Q: Okay. Some people say that you've 


secretary, Montek Singh Ahluwalia. 
Do you get along with him? 

A: Well, as far as my secretary Mi 
Montek Singh Ahluwalia is con- 
cerned, the Prime Minister tele- 
phoned me and said "'would you take 
him"? I said “yes, I would take him". 
Because I know he is an educated 
person and he has a good knowledge 
of economics. I, as a minister, will 


cause I know my mind and I expect 
the secretaries to just work out the 
options and present it before me. And 
ril make the decisions and I'll stand 
up for it. If an officer makes an honest 
mistake, I'll defend him. 

I have already demonstrated that in 
the Bofors matter, where the addition- 
al solicitor-general had taken a stand 
which was outside his scope. And 
although I was completely .satisfied 
with his response and the stand he 
took, nevertheless it went a little 
afield. I backed him fully. 

Q: There was also something about a 
Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBl) 
official, K. Madhavan, who... 

A: Yes, that CBI official definitely 
misbehaved. He had no business to 
get up in the court and denounce the 
additional solicitor-general, because 
he was not even his counsel. The addi- 
tional solicitor-general, Mr K.T.S. 
Tulsi, was representing the Union 
government, namely the law ministry. 
The CBI was being represented by 
another solicitor-general called Chan- 
drasekharan. 

So if something Mr Tulsi said was 
not to the liking of the CBI, they 
should have either asked for an ad- 
journment and complained to me later 
on. Or he should have asked his own 


been landed with your new commerce I have problems with no secretary, be- 


CHANDRA 

SHEKHAR 

"We respect each 
other. We’ve been 
together for a long 
time. And we have 
had periods when 
we’ve fought each 
other. But 
essentially, 
Chandra Shekhar 
has a large heart 
When he starts 
trusting, he truata a 
lot” 



SUNDAY 6^12 January 19H1 


23 


INTERVIEW 


HAJESH KUMAR 



CHANDRA SWAMI 

""Just because 
Chandra SwamI 
wears a bindl or 
because he has got 
a beard and he 
wears rudraksh 
malas, is he 
unsavoury? What is 
so savoury about 
Nehru or Hegde that 
they became the 
toast of the press?” 


counsel to contradict what the other 
solicitor-general said. But instead of 
that he made such a noise there and 
that was totally uncalled for. And Tm 
sure...rm given to understand that the 
civil services have told Mr Madhavan 
that he did commit an indiscretion. 

Q: People seem somewhat cynical — if 
not tired — about this whole Bofors 
thing... 

A: I agree! People have become cynic- 
al largely because of what Mr V.P. 
Singh did. Me promised to get the 
names in 15 days. In his 11 months in 
office he could not get it. And then, he 
has misled the public by saying “I have 
nothing to do with Bofors, and the file 
came to me for signature and the 
Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) said I 
should sign. So, as finance minister, 1 
signed.” 

Now, it turns out that it was a lie. 
Because it is now known from records, 
and on the basis of information that I 
have obtained privately, that Mr V.P. 
Singh had gone to Stockholm on the 
10th of June 1985 and had closed-door 
meetings with the people there on the 
Bofors i.ssue. 

Q: Any names? 

A: No... Swedish government officials 
and the Bofors officials. And he had 
closed-door meetings. And he has still 
not told the country, and still not 
taken the country into confidence ab- 
out what happened. 

Q: Are these the same people that are 
mentioned in Martin Ardbo*s diary. 


the same people that The Hindu named 
in the Bofors scandal? 

A: I don’t know. I’m not in a position 
to say. I’m not at liberty to disclose 
any further details. It’s the responsi- 
bility of Mr V.P. Singh, who has been 
making such a noise about Bofors, to 
take the country into confidence. 

He should volunteer to give evi- 
dence to the CBl. But the activities of 
Mr V.P. Singh and Mr Arun Nehru 
have completely made people cynical. 

Q: Why is it that you criticise Mr 
Nehru so often? 1 believe at one time 
you did get on well with him... 

A: Yes, but he turned out to be a 
cheat. He cheated me and he double- 
crossed me. 

Q: Why did he do that? 

A: Well, that’s a long story and I’d 
rather not go into it. But, he is a 
double-crosser. I also decided to take 
further interest in what kind of a man 
he was and I found that he was not 
above-board. 

Q: Mr Nehru was also your predeces- 
sor in the commerce ministry. How do 
you rate his performance? 
A: Oh, very poor. In fact, when I 
arrived here there were 750 files to be 
cleared, and I found that in the entire 
1 1 months he had never had one dis- 
cussion on export strategy. I found 
that during these 1 1 months the rate of 
growth of exports had slumped from 
35 per cent to 24 per cent, and if I 
remove the rupee trade completely, 
then it, slumped further to 12 per cent. 



And this is the worst export perform- 
ance since 1966. There had been no 
awareness in the ministry. 

Furthermore, I found that in the 
four years of negotiations that had 
gone on the Uruguay Round (of the 
GATT talks), I found that during the 
11 months of Mr Arun Nehru’s te- 
nure, not one strategy had he taken on 
any issue. The bureaucrats were like 
rudderless ships on a stormy sea. 

Q: The perception seemed to be that 
Mr Nehru was one of the more efficient 
ministers of the V.P. Singh govern- 
ment. 


ARUN NEHRU 

"He turned out to be 
a cheet He cheeted 
me and he 
double-croeaed me. 

He lea 
doubie-croeaer ao I 
decided to take 
further Intereat In 
what kind of a man 
he waa and I found 
hewaenot 
above-board ” 



24 


SUNDAY 6-12 January 1991 







INTERVIEW 


(JURGAPRASAD 


M.S.AHLUWALIA 

"I know he Is an 
educated person 
and he has a good 
knowledge of 
economics. I have 
no problems with 
secretaries because 
I know my own 
mind. I’ll make the 
decisions and I’ll 
stand up for them ” 


A: Tliat is the power of the media. 
Lijce Mr Hegde was perceived as one 
of the most honest politicians in India 
{laughs). You media people are easily 
bluffed. 

I 

Q: But he did resign. 

A: Who? 

Q: Mr Hegde. 

A: When everything came out. Not 
before. He had to resign from the 
Planning Commission. When the Kul- 
dip Singh Commission report came 
out, where was the question (of not | 
resigning) ? He couldn’t stick it out. I 




Now, of course, there is no question 
of Mr Arun Nehru resigning because 
he is out of office anyway. 

Q: How bad exactly is our foreign ex- 
change situation? 

A: It’s down to 20 days worth of im- 
ports, the lowest ever in the history of 
India. 

Q: How many crores of rupees is this? 
A: It must be about Rs 2,500 crores. 

Q: The last time we met, you said India 
had a month’s worth of reserves... 

A; Yes, yes. It was down to a month, 
according to the figures available at 
that time. 

Q: More than Rs 3,000 crores? 

A: Yes, about July. But now, we have 
more recent figures and that is for 
October, and that shows rc.ser\'es are 
down to 20 days. I’m sure when I get 
the latest figures — after November — it 
will improve. The situation is impro- 
ving now. 

Q: Newspaper reports say that the 
trade deficit would grow to about Rs 
10,000 crores? 

A: Yes, for the yeai 1990-91 it is pro- 
jected to be about Rs 10, (XK) crores. It 
has always been around Rs 8,000 
crores (but it has grown) because of 
the combination of a decline in ex- 
ports and a rise in imports. 

Q: Oil? 

A; Yeah, oil. That's part of the 
reason, but not the whole reason. 


RAMAKRISHNA 

HEGDE 

“That is the power 
of the media! Mr 
Hegde was 
perceived as one of 
the most honest 
politicians In India 
(laughs). You media 
people are easily 
bluffed. When 
everything came 
out, he had to 
resign ” 


Q: How do you plan to fspeed up our 
export drive? 

A: Well, I have already identified four 
areas where we can speed it up. Agri- 
cultural processed products, one. 
Two, textiles. Three, in projects 
abroad in say, construction and so on. 
And four, in software exports. 

Q: Do you think our industrialists are a 
little too keen on raking it in at home 
and far less keen on exports? 

A: If the minister participates in rak- 
ing it in, they all rake it m. And if they 
know the minister means business, 
they will all deliver. 

Q; Is that an advice to our businessmen 
or is it a threat? 

A: Absolutely. The businessmen know 
that they’ll not get away. If they make 
a commitment, they’ll have to deliv- 
er. Otherwise, I’ll crack down on 
them . 

I’m shocked to find that so many 
industrial houses have given export 
commitments and none of them have 
lived up to it. 

Q: It seems that often, when houses 
take up a direct export commitment, 
what they end up doing is mainly act as 
export agents, like a trading house. 
They pick up produce from elsewhere 
and export it in their name, and claim 
exporters’ benefits. 

A: Well, I’m keeping a very close 
watch. They can't pull those fast ones. 

Q: Have they been pulling those fast 
ones? 


SUNDAY fr-12 January 1991 


25 





LEARNT.ISTO 
HAVE THE 
COMPBimON 
BREATHING 
DOWN OUR 
NECKS. 



Kirloskar Electric have been 
particularly blessed. We couldn’t 
find better or more talented 
people to keep us on our toes By 
the time we have made a break- 
through and done something for 
the first time in India and are 
about to catch our breath, more 
often than not. we find that our 
competitors have caught up with 
us. Wliat more can we ask for? 
They keep driving us to do one 
belter. U) come up with other 
firsts. 

We designed, developed and 
built India's first no-break genset 
for the Nuclear Power Corpora- 
tion. And then followed it up with 
India’s first earthquake-proof 
no-break set. We were the first to 
supply Indian mudgun motors for 
blast furnace operations to steel 
plants. We developed the first 
totally indigenously designed CNC 
attachment in the country called 
the Companion which won the 
prestigious FIE award at IMTEX 
’89. The first underground 3 • 2 
MVA. 11000/605 volts, class ’C’ 
insulated dry type transformer for 
the Metro Railway in Calcutta. The 
first 125 KW DC roller table 
motors for the blooming and 
slabbing mill at the Bokaro Steel 
Plant. The first generator tor 
dumb power barges. We could go 


on and on. in many a case, the 
competition has followed on our 
heels. 

What is it that inspires people 
to place such confidence in our 
ability to do jobs that others can’t? 
Quite simply, technological 
prowess and engineering excell- 
ence. They know that we’ve 
earned these the hard way. .Not b> 
borrowing them from abroad but 
by sheer grit. And by committing 
our lime, money and effort 
without any guarantee of success. 

Everybody knows that we make 
some of the finest standard AC and 
DC drives, transformers, welding 
equipmentand systems, motorised 
gear units, equipment for defence 
and industrial electronics includ- 
ing CNCs, in the country. Obvious- 
ly we have some of the best 
electrical and electronic design 
engineers. Our customers have 
implicit trust in us and the supe- 
rior quality and reliability of our 
products. As India’s leading pri- 
vate sector industrial electrics and 
electronics company, you’ll agree 
it would be easy, very easy for us 
to get com[)lacent. 

But Cod bless the competition. 
They won ’l allow us to re,sl. Not for 
a minute. Right now we are at a 
major stage of growth in every one 


of our product ranges, not to 
mention new area.s we are getting 
into. 

But action and not talk is our 
major strength. And the willing- 
ness to lake on challenges that 
others shy away from. The one 
single reason why we are the 
prime movers in our field is 
because the centre of gravity at 
Kirloskar Electric is the. customer. 
So long as we are the first to 
anticipate and respond to his 
needs, we’ll continue to he first in 
our field. 

Slay tuned in for all our new 
firsts. 


a KIRLOSKAR 
ELECTRIC 
CO. LTD. 

INDUSTRIAL ELECTRICS 
AND ELECTRONICS 

R^gd. Office : Industrial Suburb, 
Rajajinagar, Bangalore-560 010. 



When nobody else can do the job, Kirloskar Electric will. 





A: Well... yes. I think the likes of me 
are rare, and the likes of Prime Minis- 
ter Chandra Shekhar are rare. We're a 
new team altogether. I think it's the 
first lime that we’ve had such a cohe- 
sive Cabinet since a long time 

Q: Some people even said the same 
thing about the previous administra- 
tion. 

A; I'hat's only the media. But is it all 
so? Each of them were addressing 
press conterences 30,000 feet up in the 
air, aboard an air force aircraft coming 
in from some place or the other. 

That was not a team. That was all a 
bunch of individuals come together. 

Q: Do you think your administration 
lacked favourable media attention? 

A: Yes, the media, particularly the 
English-speaking editors, have been 
hostile. Because the Indian English 
speaking editors have this arrogance 
that they will decide who will be pow- 
er and who will be out of power. And 
that if they write harsh editorials the 
politicians go running to them. 

The Chandra Shekhar government 
is the first government which is far 
•more concerned about what the re- 
gional press is .saying than what the 
Delhi-based English editors are 
saying. 

Q: The feeling may have been that the 
Prime Minister and his colleagues 
would be unable to cope with the prob- 
lems that confront us... 

A: No! 

Q: ...which is the price situation, or... 

A: No, no, 1 don’t think there is any 
sense of not being able to cope with 
the situation. We are coping very well. 
In fact, every day we are gaining in the 
public eye. 

Q: Are we broke? Is India broke? 

A: A country like India can never be 
broke. But I think we have misman- 
aged our balances, and we are work- 
ing at the margin. We are at the edge 
of a precipice And it requires a lot of 
statesmanship to get out. 

Q: Statesmanship and loans or... 

A: Loans are part of the states- 
manship. After all, you must gel the 
loan in such a way that you don’t have 
to commit too much. That’s part of the 
sophistication. 

Q: But the IMF seems to be pushing 
India into that situation. 

A: If we take only US $one billion 


THE PUBLIC 
SECTOR 

“One way would be 
to off-load 40 per 
cent of the shares of 
the public sector 
units on the capital 
market. The public 
sector will still be 
owned by the 
government but 
private individuals 
will go to 
shareholders’ 
meetings and ask 
questions ” 





from the IMF how many conditions 
can they impose? 

Q: Doe.snT India need US Sfive to six 
billion? 

A: Yes, from multiple sources We'll 
get some directly from Japan, we'll get 
some from the Arab countries. We'll 
spread it around so that no one coun- 
try can claim too much from us. 

Q: Do you think united Germany 
would have any interest at all in India? 

A: They might, they might. We have 
good relations with them and I think 
the Germans are a source we should 
tap. 

Q: But if they don't have money to 
spare, it sours things. In India, people 
don’t have enough money to count in 
for inflation, and they are unhappy. 

A: But where is the question of not 
having money? We are a country of 
84(1 million people... 

Q: Our people don’t seem to be able to 
cope any longer... 

A: That's correct. In fact, the inflation 
was out of control about two weeks 
ago, but now I think we are keeping a 
very close watch. 

Q: What do you think the rate of infla- 
tion would be? Officially? Or even bet- 
ter, unofficially? 

A: I can’t say. You see, much will 
depend on... we have some plans for 
importation. If we are able to imptirt 
enough edible oil... 


Q: How would you pay for it? 

A: Well, wc have to say it in terms of 
credits and in terms of barter. Those 
systems are being woiked out. 

Q: We’ve been waiting for the Eighth 
Plan for ages now... 

A: You don’t have to wail very long. 

Q: Do you mean that? 

A: Oh sure, 1 hope wc can have a plan 
out by the 31st of March. 

Q: And the Union budget? 

A: Budget I can’t predict because that 
is the finance minister’s preserve, the 
Cabinet has no say. 

Q: Mr Hegde’s departure seems to 
have ruined things altogether at the 
Planning Commission. 

A: A full Planning C’ommission meet- 
ing took place today after many, many 
months in the Planning Commission 
building itself. 

Q: Where was it held earlier? 

A: At the Prime Minister’s residence 
(laughs). That itself shows that there is 
a certain re-orientation taking place. 

Q: Do you think people underestimate 
the likes of the Prime Minister and 
yourself? 

A: Yes, I think the English-speaking 
editors have made it a fashion to 
attack us everyday in the media. And 
that might have led people to feel — 
because media does have a lot of influ- 
ence. And also, English newspapers 


28 


SUNDAY 6-1 2 January 1991 







tend to get translated and plagiarised 
by language papers. So, there is an 
impact, and over a period of time that 
impact changes. 

And now, as we are performing', 
and particularly, as we have shown 
that we can take firm action, in Punjab 
and Kashmir. We have defused the 
situation in Ayodhya. We have taken 
a very firm action in Assam. Then 
they saw our performance in CiATT\ 
where we were able to get our point 
across. I think people are beginning to 
develop confidence. And even the Hn- 
glish papers are not having any im- 
pact. 

Q: Do you agree that the economic 
situation is the single biggest crisis fac- 
ing us? 

A: No ( think the communal situation 
is pretty bad, the threat to our integri- 
ty is pretty bad. It is not a crisis in the 
sense that we can’t cope with it, 

Q: Are you saying that the V.P. Singh 
government went wrong on every 
issue? 

A: Absolutely. One can look at it ob- 
jectively. Mr Gandhi was able to hold 
elections in Punjab. At that time, out 
of 217 police stations in Punjab, 11 
were affected by terrorism. By the 
time V.P. Singh left it was 50. And 
they couldn’t hold elections in Punjab, 
despite all the dramatics they did in 
going to the Golden Temple, and so 
on. 

Take Kashmir. Kashmir was far 
more manageable than it is today. 
Largely because of Mr V.P. Singh’s 


mismanagement there. 

For the economy, they said the 
treasury is empty. Well, we found that 
it was not much better. So ihey did 
nothing in that part either. And on top 
of that we have a huge budget deficit, 
a huge trade deficit. 


Q: Won’t the Soviet Bloc countries 
turning to capitalism affect our rupee 
trade? 



ARUN NEHRU 

‘'He was a very poor 
minister. When I arrived 
here there were 750 files 
to be cleared. In 11 
months, he never had 
one discussion on export 
strategy. We had the 
worst export 
performance since 1 966” 

■. - 


A: Yes. In fact. I’m winding it up. The* 
Poles wanted to wind it up and 1 said 
yes. Now the Czechoslovaks want to 
wind it up, and I said yes, wind it up. 
The Russians want five years to wind 
it up, and 1 said okay. 

Q: Is it because we were losing from 
the trade? 

A: No, we were not losing, it’s a 
mutual thing. In fact, we have prob- 
lems on the exchange rate. The ex- 
change rate which the Russians charge 
us. the number of rupees they charge 
for a rouble, is double what they 
charge the Americans. 

Q: Mr Chandra Shekhar had publicly 
come out against the industrial policy 
proposals. And Si >'da\ had said that 
perhaps he was being a little short- 
sighted with his criticism. W’hat do you 
think? 

A: Chandra Shekhar's main emphasis 
was on two things. One: the wording 
was too close to the World Bank re- 
port. And two: that he tell that self- 
reliance would be under threat, if that 
automatic 40 per cent cle«i ranee came 
through. 

1 tell you, you have to look at it 
deeper. The V.P. Singh government's 
policy said that you can buv equity up 
to 40 per cent automatically. Bui they 
also put a ceiling of five per cent on 
royalty payments. ^ ou tell me, what 
kind of technology in going to come? 

Today, modern technology gets a 
royalty i>f 15 per cent eveiywhcre. 
Whether it’s electronics dr artificial 
intelligence or bio-technology or 
whatever, they're getting royalty pay- 
ments of not less than 15 per cent. 
Who’ll come for five per cent ? It was a 
cock-eyed policy. 

Q: What kind of an industrial policy 
would you visualise? 

A: Well, I'm not at liberty to express 
freely my views but 1 made it clear 
today in the Planning Commission 
meeting also that the biggest problem 
of India is not resources, but the in- 
efficient use of resources. 

We have a rate of savings which is 
22 per cent, one of the highest in the 
world. And yet we have a capital- 
output ratio which is also one of the 
highest in the world. 

I accept that some way should be 
found for accountability. 

Q: Does that mean the public sector 
gets the axe? 

A: No, I don't think so. I have sug- 
gested one method of accountability — 


SUNDAY fr-12 January 1991 


29 


Fm not saying whether this is accept- 
able, I’m now talking out of turn — but 
I’ll tell you very frankly that one way 
of getting accountability in the public 
sector is off-loading 40 per cent of 
shares of each of the public sectors on 
the capital market. And allow private 
individuals to go to shareholders’ 
meetings and ask questions. 

The public sector will still be in the 
hands of the government, but (hey will 
have to answer questions. Whereas 
today I find that the public sector 
shareholders’ meetings, 100 per cent 
owned by the government, it lasts only 
10 minutes, they collect their T.A., 
D.A., and buzz off. 

Q: Will it come through? 

A: ril push for it. 


Q: Did you choose to wind up Bharat 
Business International Ltd (BBIL) as 
part of your efficiency drive? 

A: That was an octopus. BBIL was an 
octopus. And 1 mu.st tell you that the 
consultative committee of Parliam- 
ment that consists of MPs troin all 
parties — including the .lanata Dal — 
they unanimously endorsed my deci- 
sion to wind up i3BlL. 

BBIL was not a holding company in 
the proper sen.se of the word. It was 
swallowing every organisation. Not 
only the State Trading Corp. (STC) 
and the Mines and Minerals Trading 
Corp. (MMTC) that they were trying 
to grab, but a whole lot of them. And' 
much of the work that they did was 
public relations. 

You go and see the office of the 
chairman in the STC building. I have 
not yet been able to get an estimate of 
how much it cost, but it’s not less than 
Rs 80 lakhs. 


Q: Just the chairman’s office? 

A: The chairman’s office floor. And 
it is so beautiful that if it were not for 
my normal austerity inclinations, I 
would have moved into those offices 
myself. Is this the kind of thing we 
want? We want action. We want effi- 
ciency in the use of resources, efficien- 
cy in decision-making. BBIL did not 
do that. And that’s why I have decided 
to wind it up. 

Q: What did you teach at Harvard 
University? 

A: I taught mathematical economics, 
econometrics, I taught China, I taught 
India sometimes, international trade. 

Q: You taught at the Indian Institute of 
Technology in Delhi also? 


A: For three years, I was a professor 
of economics. 

Q: Why did you kick it all up? You 
seemed to be having a marvellous 
career. 

A: Yeah, by the time 1 came I was 
already a full piofessor I left teaching 
on a regular basis in 1972. 1 left Har- 
vard m 1970. And then 1 went to Har- 
vard regularly on a short-term basis 
for the next 15 years. Except that in 
1985-86 after losing the Lok Sabha 
elections, 1 went for two years. 

At ITT, I was removed from my 
professorship. 

Q: Why? 

A: Because Mr Nurul Hassan and a 
whole lot of dicse communists felt I 
was a threat. They couldn’t bother 
about the fact that here is a person 
who, out of patriotic duty, has left a 
Harvard professorship, over 106 pub- 
lications — including several with 
Nobel laureates like Paul Samuelsdn. 


They saw to it that I was thrown out 
on the street. Then they blocked my 
entry into every other university in 
India. 

And after that I had no alternative. 
Either I had to go back to Harvard, or 
stay here and fight. And that’s what I 
did. 

Q: Is this what drove you into politics? 
A: Absolutely. I had no political back- 
ground. I’ve never been in student 
politics and decided that alright, if 
this is what they think they 'can get 
away with. I’ll sacrifice my academic 
career — although my academic career 
continued to flourish, I continued to 
publish with Paul Samuelson, and my 
papers are now classics in the field. 
But I devoted most of my time on 
politics. I wasn’t like other Indians, 
who just pack up their bags and go 
back to America. 

Q: But staying here has got you into a 
fair amount of trouble. Scandals... 

A: What scandals? Which scandals? 

Q: For example, a recent one, in which 
a Bombay paper accused you of mak- 
ing crores of rupees through politics. 
You were in office for ju.st two weeks 
when that happened. And earlier, peo- 
ple linked you with people who are 
generally considered un.savoury, like 
Chandra Swami... 

A: Why is Chandra Swami unsavoury? 

Q: I don’t know. You tell me. 

A: Is Arun Nehru savoury? Is Ramak- 
rishna Hcgde savoury? Just because 
Chandra Swami wears a hindi or be- 
cause he's got a beard and he wears 
rudraksh nialas, is he unsavoury? 
What is so savoury about Nehru or 
Hegde that they can be the toast of 
you pressmen, and C'handra Swami 
should become unsavoury? 

Q: What about the BBIL wind-up? 
People say that because of that, we will 
lose millions of dollars. 

A: That is another propaganda. Any- 
way, the officers who were responsible 
for trying to stir up trouble they are all 
out of office now, so why bother about 
it? 

Q: Do you think you will be able to 
work with Mr Ahluwalia? 

A: I’ll have no problems with him. 
He’s an educated person, and as long 
»as he knows he is secretary and I’m 
minister, I don’t think I’ll have any 
problems. • 



V. P.SINGffS CABINET 


"^That was not a team. It was a bunch of individuals 
coming together. Each of them were addressing press 
conferences aboard an Air Force aircraft ” 


30 


8UNDAY6-12 January 1991 




BANKRUPT! 

How India got into the mess. And is there a way out? 


I t does not take very much to 
sum up the reality that is India 
today. The treasury is scraping 
the bottom, money is being 
spent taster than it comes in. 
Our government is living on borrowed 
funds and borrowed time There aie 
j shortages, prices are high, and peo- 
ple's incomes can baiel\ keep up with 
them. And the government is taking 
vvith It India’s citi/ens lor a nightmar- 
ish tight-ropc walk. 

“I think that we have two basic 
problems m India," Prime Minister 
C'liandia Shekhar told 
Si NOA'i barelv days af- 
ter he was sworn in last 
NovcTtibci “Scarcity of 
rcsouiccs and great 
poseitN that was our 
problem in 1^50 I'hat is 
our problem in PKtO." 

Shekhar's finance minis- 
ter Yashwant Sinha is as 
undcfstated The eco- 
nomv's problems arc 
“dilticult but manage- 
able", he sa\s, and “if 
we make determined 
efforts we can improve 
the situation". 

I'hcse assessments, 
however, do not reflect 
the true picture of the 
mess the country is in. 

Shekhai talks about 
problems being similar 
even after fcnir decades. 

The thing is, the nature 
of the problems may be 
the same, but they have 
become much worse 
than anyone could have 
imagined. And when 
Sinha says things arc dif- 
ficult (see interview on 
page 40), the truth is 
that they may be next to 
impossible. 

Bad news for Yash- 
want Sinha, India's top 
money man. He is the 
person 


who, ultimately, has the responsibility 
of trying to get India out of the 
morass. If he can pull it off, he will 
probably get a Nobel Prize for econo- 
mics If he car. not— which is more 
likely — effects of the likely recession 
will last into the next century. 

Consider the following: 

■ There is a shortage of essential 
commodities such as edible oil, a stag- 
gering ten lakh tonnes. Prices, fuelled 
by shortages, have risen by a quarter 
in the past year or so. To bring them 
down, the government is importing 


edible oil. But this, in turn, is using up 
precious foreign exchange, which is 
down to Rs 2„S()(I crores, worth a mere 
20 days of imports. “The lowest ever,” 
says Union commerce minister Sub- 
ramaniam Swamy, “in the history of 
India." 

■ In the past one year, prices of on- 
ions, pulses, sugar and durable cloth, 
among other things, have risen by any- 
thing between 20-50 per cent In the 
past, the fix was to import — sugar, for 
example. Now, there is no monev to 
spare. Prices are expected to keep 
going up, and the rate of 
inflation could well 
touch 15 pel cent this 
year. “Prices have risen 
in a phenomenal man- 
ner," says Surindcr 
Kumar Goyal. the PM's 
friend, key policy-maker 
and a professor of eco- 
nomic. at New Delhi's 
Indian Institute of Pub- 
lic Administration. 

■ For the financial year 
1990-91 . Rs b,(U)0 crores 
was the estimated cost 
for petroleum imports. 
With the Gulf crisis, in- 
ternational crude pet- 
roleum prices zoomed 
up, and the revised im- 
port bill looks more like 
Rs 12,000 crore-plus. 
Besides. India has lost 
2.4 million tonnes of 
domestic crude oil pro- 
duction, thanks to prob- 
lems in its Assam oil- 
fields. Things are bad 
enough, and if wai 
breaks out in the Gulf, 
oil prices will zoom 
again. 1'hc effect on In- 
dia's economy and its 
people; “It wall he a dis- 
aster," admits Sinha. 

■ The government is 
heading foi a massive 
revenue shortfall. 

Till November 1990, 
the revenue shortfall 



SUNDAY 6~12 January 19B1 


31 



COVER STORY 


was as much as Rs 27,223.08 crores. 
From customs duties, central excise 
and direct taxes — on personal incom- 
es, gifts, wealth and companies. This 
figure is close to half the budget esti- 
mates of about Rs 57,000 crores. 
Again, a dubious record. Since 
November, says deputy finance minis- 
ter Digvijay Singh, who looks after 
revenue, “a lot of improvement has 
taken place’', and more money is ex- 
pected to roll in around February- 
March, when most companies and in- 
dividuals cough up their taxes. Still, 
say government officials and econom- 
ists, the shortfall will be around Rs 
18,000 crores. 

■ Most of the money the government 
earns is spent in ploughing it back into 
the insatiable — and inefficient — public 
sector, a defence expenditure which 
could hit Rs 16,000 crores this year, on 
politicians, bureaucrats and salaries of 
lakhs of government servants. “The 
government sector,” says Y.Z. Bhat- 
ty, director of New Delhi’s National 
Council of Applied Economic Re- 
search (NCAER), “cats it all up.” The 
earnings are not enough, so the gov- 
ernment has taken a simple way out: 
in the absence of enough money, it has 
printed more money, the essence of a 


budget ‘deficit’. This deficit is pro- 
jected to be Rs 14,0(K) crores by end- 
March, double of what was estimated 
for the 1990-91 financial year. This 
paper money is not backed by any- 
thing of value, and is actually worth 
three-quarters less than what a curren- 
cy note claims it is. This is fuelling 
inflation. 

■ As there is no money for develop- 
ment projects, barely any foreign ex- 
change to pay for imports, India has to 
go to bank consortiums abroad, such 
as the International Monetary Fund 
(IMF) or to various countries such as 
Japan or the UK for money. Even 
Chandra Shekhar, who has constantly 
decried the fact that India has sold 
itself lock, stock and barrel to the IMF 
and consequently, are pressured by 
the agency to open up the country to 
multinational business, says there is 
no way out. India will be borrowing 
US $ two billion (Rs 3,600 crores) 
from the IMF alone. And, will need 
anything up to three times that 
amount to get through 1991. It will 
bring India precious money. On the 
other hand, it will add to our external 
debt of a staggering Rs 1,30,000 
crores. 

■ And nobody is even venturing to 



think what will happen if the mon- 
soons give India the go-by this year. 
When ministers, government and pri- 
vate economists, businessmen are 
quizzed about this, they either shrug 
or look up resignedly. The prospect-- 
memories of the 1986-88 drought are 
still fresh — is simply too frightening. It 


HOW WE GOT INTO THIS MESS 



DEVI LAL: squandering public money? 


It is difficult to pin down 
exactly when and where 
things started going wrong, 
but Ra|iv Gandhi’s reign 
and spiralling government 
expenditure are a good 
place to begin. 

• Expenses on feeding the 
inefficient public sector, 
defence, agriculture and 
fertiliser subsidies, became 
problematic when Rapv 
was Prime Minister. 

• Anytime — and practical- 
ly anywheie — government 
employees went on stiikc. 
To pacify them, the govern- 
ment offered a pay hike, or 
an increase in dearness 
allowances to get them 
back into line- A de- 
teriorating relationship 
with Pakistan meant Rs 
U),(KK) crore-plus expenses 
a yeai for the armed forces 
and purchases. (For 1990- 
91, defence expenditure 
could be as high as Rs 
16,(M)() crores.) 


• Soothing the rural vote- 
bank meant increasing crop 
procurement prices and fer- 
tiliser subsidies. The gov- 
ernment also picked up 
tabs for the frequent ‘air- 
dashing’ that politicians 
countrywide indulged in. 
Not to forget foreign 
■junkets. 

• These trends continue. 

• The two years of drought 
between 1986-88 knocked 


off more than the growth 
rate of the economy. f’\)od 
stocks dwindled, down 
from a few months’ worth 
to a few weeks’. Public 
sector banks stretched 
themselves granting rural 
credit, a lot of which ends 
up as bad debt. And after 
Rajiv the government — in- 
credibly — took to waiving 
farm loans. Devi Lai’s 
brash move when he was 


deputy to the Raja would 
have cost the exchcquei Rs 
12,01)0 crores, a figure later 
pruned down to Rs 2,5(K) 
crores. Lai is still deput\ , 
though to ( ' h a n cl r a 
Shekhar, and loan waivers 
are still a t h i e a t 
• Right through successive 
administrations, the gov- 
ernment never cut its own 
burgeoning expenditure. It 
merely raised more taxes to 
feed it. But the revenue 
was not enough to pay for 
development projects, im- 
ports or annual and Five 
Year Plans. So, the govern- 
ment borrowed. And bor- 
row'cd a lot. For example, 
most of the Seventh Five 
Year Plan was financed 
through borrowings Irorn 
home and abroad. Current- 
ly, the government’s exter- 
nal debt is close to Rs 
1,30,000 crores and it pays 
out 30 per cent of this mas- 
sive sum a year as interest 


32 


SUNDAY 6—12 January 1991 





COVER STORY 




The Raja (above) did 
not create the Gulf 
crisis. But in trying to 
reduce petrol 
consumption, he made 
transportation more 
expensive 


means that food slocks can get wiped BJjow on earth did wc get into this 
out, inflation soars, India imports and 11 mess, this bankruptcy? 
borrows still more, people purchase 'Fhe blame lies squarely on the Gov- 
less and therefore, industry sells less, eminent of India, not the people of 
Misery all around, India. This is something that even the 

government admits, though somewhat 
I'his H India— battered and hank- j reluctantly. And the conventional wis- 
ftipt. I dom Nays that India is not bankrupt. 


I 


but the government is. 

After all, industry is doing well, 
corporate financial results for the first 
half of 1990-91 (April-September) 
have been perhaps the only good thing 
in a year replete with political upheav- 
als, communal tension and rabid mili- 
tancy in Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab 
and Assam. India's gross domestic 
savings rate, which accounts for the 
money householders all over the coun- 
try have stashed away, is at a healthy' 
21 per cent of earnings. The con- 
sumerism and profligacy that is both 
the boon and the bane in a country 
like the US, is not true of India. Yet. 

All fingers point to the government, 
and its policies. 

The mess started getting messier 
when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minis- 
ter (see box: How we got into this 
mess). The drought, which wiped out 
our food stocks and forced the govern- 
ment to import food as well as grant 
ad hoc relief to affected farmers — a Rs 
500 crorc tab — was not Rajiv’s fault. 
But feeding the state .sector with in- 
creasing amounts of public money, 
announcing grandiose development 
schemes, increasing defence expendi- 
ture, were. 

Rajiv took the easy way out when 



payments 

• Boi rowing, however, is 
still inadequate to cover 
such exercises as the Union 
budget Clo\ernment in- 
come ne\er matches its e\- 
pendituie, irrespective of 
how much it raises m taxes 
So. It resorts to ‘deficit 
financine'. 

• Very simply, it is like 
going to a bank toi an over- 
draft on youi account Or 
even moie simply, spend- 
ing more money than what 
your salary fetches you 
Only, in the government's 
case, as it is the ultimate 
overlord of money m India, 
it cannot exactly borrow 
from its own pocket. So it 
prints more money 
without backing it with any- 
thing ot value, like gold 
assets, tor example. 

• This is the norm, but it 
went haywire with Rajiv. 
For the financial year 1989- 
90 — during most of this 



period Rajiv was PM — the 
budget deficit was Rs 
1 1 , 7 ( 1(1 crores. For 1990-91 , 
mostly V.P. Singh's era, it 
IS estimated to be as hmh as 
Rs 1 4, ()()() crores. 

• Now. things .ook hairier 
still. One way to cut de- 
ficit — besides the overwhel- 
mingly logical out over- 
whelmingly ignored way of 
cutting gefi'ernment cx- 
pendilure—^r to increase 


revcpnc 

'• In 1990-91, howevei, 
things have fallen apart. 
Till November, the revenue 
shoittall was as much as Rs 
,22?> 08 ci ores - from 
customs dues, central ex- 
cise and corjiorate. income, 
gift and wealth taxes -close 
Fo half the sanctioned 
budget estimates. 

.• With the situation cal- 
mer these davs, revenue is 


coming in again, and the 
traditionally money-mad 
months of February and 
March, when people pay 
taxes to beat the deadline, 
should also .see some in- 
come. But despite all this, 
the revenue shortfall could 
still be as high as Rs 18,000 
crores. 

• More trouble. Import 
bills have been rising 
steadily. Both to pay for 
oil, India's single largest 
import Item, and to pay for 
capital goods— needed for 
industry — among other 
things. 

• In mid- 1990. with Sad- 
dam Hussein jack-booting 
over Kuwait, a consequent 
Imited Nations-sponsored 
trade embargo on Iraq and 
jacking up of oil prices by 
the Organisation of Pet- 
roleum Exporting Coun- 
tries, India's import bill 
went through the roof. The 
budget for 1990-91 had esti- 


SUNDAY &<-12 January 1991 


( Continued on next page) 33 


COVER STORY 


he discovered the treasury was 
emptying. He did not cut government 
expenditure, politically crucial sub- 
sidies on agriculture, fertiliserand food 
(which eats up about Rs 3(),000 crores 
of government money). He just 
printed more money to take care of 
government expenses, as even increas- 
ing taxes did not help too much. And 
borrowed from abroad to take care of 
development projects and imports. 
The Seventh Five Year Plan between 
1985-90 did meet most of the targets, 
but almost entirely on borrowed 
funds. “You can’t have the household 
and corporate sector save money,” 
says NCAER's Bhatty, “and the gov- 
ernment eat It up.” 

But that is precisely what happened. 
And with the advent of Vishwanath 
Pratap Singh as Prime Minister, things 
just became worse. The Raja did no- 
thing to cut subsidies, and in fact, 
allowed his deputy, Devi Lai — who is 
also Chandra Shekhar’s deputy — to 
announce a hair-brained scheme: Rs 
10,000 crores worth of loan waivers to 
farmers. The amount was later re- 
duced to about Rs 2,500 crores. But 
Lai is still around, and is very much a 
threat to the economy. 

VP did nothing to extend his tax 



S.K.Goyal(left), 
the socialist, and 
Manmohan 
Singh, the 
reaiist. The PM 
and Yashwant 
Sinha are heavily 
dependent on 
them 



net, either. Taxing agriculture was 
taboo, and the top ten per cent of 
India’s population continued to pay all 
the taxes. All he did was increase in- 
direct taxes — customs duties and ex- 
cise — which heaped more pressure on 
industry and in turn, the consumer. 

To top that, the Raja did something 
bizarre. He refunded excise dues to 
companies, who merely made their 
money twice over. Because, the com- 
panies never refunded the money to 
the consumers. This tab is worth Rs 
300 crores. His government also pas- 


sed around a circular saying that these 
refunds should be stepped up — cur- 
rently, a staggering Rs 10,000 crore- 
plus in excise refund is tied up in 
courts. “If an enquiry becomes neces- 
sary,” says finance minsiter Sinha, 
“we shall certainly not shirk from 
holding an enquiry.” (In Parliament 
last week, when questions were asked 
about excise refunds, Sinha’s prede- 
cessor Miidhu Dandavate kept mum. 
The Raja was not m the House.) 

VP also single-handedly let the 
Mandal Commission agitation go hay- 


HOW WE GOT INTO THIS MESS 


mated Rs b,40() crores for 
oil impoits. Now it could 
be as high as Rs 12,000 
crores. 'Fhc government 
now talks aboiit^a trade de- 
ficit when the value of im- 
ports exceed export earn- 
ings— of Rs 10,000 crores 
or so for 1990-91. But few 
people m government and 
industry will be surprised if 
trade deficit hits the Rs 
18,000 crore mark. 

• US President George 
Bush IS talking about 15 
January as a deadline tor 
peace talks with Iracp coun- 
terpart Hussein. But it the 
Gulf deadlock peisists, oi it 
war breaks out, India's oil 
import bill could jump by 
half. This is a reason for 
which the Indian govern- 
ment cannot be blamed 
On the other hand, howev- 
er, India's oil exploration 
efforts have been so la/y 
that if things had gone 
according to plan, we 



THE BOFOR5GUN: 

rising defence expenditure 


would not have to import 
quite so much oil. 

• Edible oils, something 
that no Indian can do with- 
out, IS in short supply. Gov- 
ernment souices admit the 
shortfall is b) lakh tonnes 

i The result of bad oil seed 
crops, rising consumption 
and a national mission on 
oilseeds that has gone hay- 


wire. Like the other nation- 
al missions, telecom- 
munications. literacy, im- 
munisation. el ni Now, the 
government will import 
edible oils 7 he bill goes 
up. 

• The g o \ e n m e n t — 
whether Rajiv lan it, the 
Raja lan to the ground or, 
Chandra Shekhar is run- 
ning out ot ideas w'ith— has 
consistently messed up with 
policy. Saying it had an eye 
on the future but looked at 
it with Its head buried firm- 
ly in the ground. The re- 
sult: India's economy has 
more to do with political 
expediency than monetary 
mien If economists have 
ever suggested a way out, 
then the government has 
eithei ignored it — as with 
the previous regime’s in- 
dustrial policy proposals — 
or implemented it in a half- 
baked manner — as with the 
rationale of cutting sub- 


sidies. oi making the public 
sector mo»e efficient. Or 
bringing in non-resident In- 
dian (NRI) investment. 
• The idea may seem diffi- 
cult to grasp, but every 
time riots break out, people 
kill each other, militant 
groups cry for regional 
‘freedom’, the economy is 
hurt. Politically, India is 
probably in a worse mess 
than its economy. But as 
the political situation 
affects the economy, the 
race for first place will be a 
close one. Successive gov- 
ernments have talked about 
pacifying people, but done 
nothing. Political stale- 
mates do not help the eco- 
nomy. And the tragedy of 
Indian polity is: govern- 
ments do not realise that a 
healthy political situation 
means a healthy economy, 
and a healthy economy, in 
turn, means a healthy poli- 
tical situation. 


34 


SUNDAY 6-12 January 1 661 






COVER STORY 


wire, communalists run riot and Pun- 
jab, J&K and Assam fall to pieces. 
The trouble affected revenue collec- 
tion. He was so busy battling political 
crises and protecting his own vote 
banks that crucial decision on the 
Eighth Five Year Plan ( 1990-95) is still 
in limbo. So are the industrial policy 
proposals. 

On the positive side, the Raja did 
not create the Gulf crisis. 1 le did try to 
reduce petrol and diesel consumption 
by cutting back on supplies, and raised 
petroleum product prices to bring in 
revenue. Only, it was too little, too 
late. The move served to make trans- 
portation more expensive, which 
meant goods became more expensive, 
which meant, very simply, that the 
citizen of India was paying through his 
nose for anything he bought. 

“Total drift, drift on every front, 
whether it is the economy or anything 
else.” This is how Yashwant Sinha 

r 


describes the achievements of the 
V.P. Singh government. His deputy, 
Digvijay Singh, is as critical. “The pre- 
vious regime could not think beyond 
certain limits. As a government they 
should have thought what kind of fu- 
ture we will have in the ministry of 
finance." 

Fine, but Rajiv did not give two 
hoots about the mess he was leaving 
behind for V.P. Singh to clean up. 
Similarly, it is very unlikely that the 
Raja felt any pangs of remorse for 
messing things up still more. Politi- 
cians are short on memory. And are 
equally short of any conscience. If this 


rule applies to Rajiv and the Raja, it 
applies equally to Chandra Shekhar 
and his money men. 

“This government, or any govern- 
ment that is in power, can go on laying 
the blame for sometime on the past 
governments,” says Goyal, the PM's 
freind and policy-maker. “But that 
should end. They can't live on the 
past, they will have to live with the 
future." He adds: “It's true that infla- 
tion is there, the IMF loan, these are 
well-known problems. You can't go 
on .saying that the previous govern- 
ment did It." 

B rave words, and noble, coming 
from someone whi> is as closely 
associated with the government as 
Goyal is. 

But what exactly is the government 
planning to do. to ease out of its own 
bankruptcy and therefore, do away 
with the spectre of the whole country 


going broke sooner or later? And, is 
there a way out? 

This is where the problem comes in. 
The government is agreed only on the 
broad outlines of policv: debt should 
be reduced. Government expenses 
need pruning. Revenue should be 
raised. Imports should lessen and ex- 
ports should increase. Investment 
should be encouraged. Inflation 
should come down and the people of 
India— both rural and urban — deserve 
a bettei life. But there arc various 
ideas floating around about how these 
changes should come about. In this 
respect, there is a sense of confusion 


Tabling the nightmare 


Rev( 

Now. the c 
crores short 
target. Ever 
shortfall CO 
1£ 

)nue she 

ollection k 
of the Rs 
if things i 
uid be as i 
1,000 cror( 

trtfall 

5 Rs 27,000 
57,000-crore 
mprove, the 
Tiuch as Rs 
ss. 

Last year, 
figures, fror 
It could go a 

Inflation 

inflation ci 
n nine per 
shigh as 

ossed two 
cent. In '91 

15 per cent. 

Bu 

Stunning. 1 
7,206 crore 
could go as hi 

dgetdef 

"he Raja e 
s for 1990 
gh as Rs 1 

icit 

atimated Rs 
-91 . Now, it 
4,000 crores. 

Fc 

At Rs 1 ,30,C 
ever. It is llki 
borrows moi 
we 

»reign de 

lOO crores 
sly to incre 
e to pay fc 
lil as interc 

bt 

the highest 
^ase as India 
)' survival as 
?3t. 

Export growt 

Down, says the gov 
though the general imp 
that it had gone up. F 
cent to 24. 

irate 

ernment. 
iression was 
rom 35 per 

Foreign e 

Down to 20 
or about 
mid-199( 
crores. Th 

xchangc 

days wort 
Rs 2,500 ( 
), It was at 
e lowest-e 

1 reserves 

h of imports, 
:rores. In 

Rs 5,787 
iver buffer. 

Tf 

Is genera 
crores. But 
imports and 
could go o\ 

W 

ade defi 

lly around 
this year, v 
a lazy exp 
/er Rs 10,1 

cit 

Rs 8,000 
vith more oil 
ort growth, it 
DOO crores. 



THE DROUGHT : knocked off more than the growth rate of the economy 


SUNDAY 6-12 January 1991 


35 



COVER STORY 


The p^sy-bankers 

A list of government policy-makers— how they 
think and what they are doing 


CHANDRA SHEKHAR, Prime 

NHnisten As PM-in-wailing, he 
rubbished the Raja’s economic 
policies. Shot down his industrial 
policy and said that India was 
selling out to the World Bank, 
wooing inuitinational business and 
sacrificing self-reliance. Shekhar 
also said that the International 
Monetary Fund (IMF), a consor- 
tium, is holding India to ransom 
with its loans and pronrises of more 
to come. 

Now that Shekhar is PM, he has 
changed his tunc — somewhat. He 
has publicly admitted that India 
needs to go to the IMF. 

But that is that. Shekhar is still 
the socialist who will not open up 
India to multinational corpora- 
tions. 

Whatever his socialist shortcom- 
ings, Shekhar is a realist, a listener 
and a go-getter. For mending the 
economy, he is considered to be a 
far better bet than Rajiv Gandhi or 
V.P. Singh. 

YASHWANT SINHA, finance 
minister: Former Indian Adminis- 
trative Services officer who is in a 
spot over how to get India out of 
the financial morass. Sinha is not 
exactly a hard-core socialist, but 
loyal to the PM. He has a 

E onderous style of working but as 
is colleagues — and the PM — do 
not, he is pushed into doing things 
quickly. 

The finance chief believes, like 
most of his colleagues, that the 
corporate sector hedges on tax, 
shirks from export commitments 
and generally has a merry time. 
Cornered into a terrifying money 
position, he had no hesitation in 
suggesting that corporate levies be 
raised and benefits reduced. 

Sinha is best as a policy man who 
asks around for opinion and then 
presents a formal approach. 

MGVMAY SINGH, deputy fi* 
mnee minister: The enforcer. 
Hoes his homework, knows the 
loopholes and will do anything that 
the PM asks of him. Makes a 


decent team with his senior 
minister: Sinha outlines the plan, 
and Singh follows through. 

He is the government's prime 
how-to-raise money man. From 
thinking up ways of increasing 
revenue and collecting it, to ways 
of enticing NR! investment. 


Thinks refunding excise dues to the 
private sector is all bunk, as 
companies make money twice 
over: once by charging excise to the 
consumers and again, by reclaim- 
ing it from the government but not 
passing on the benefits to the 
consumers. Is expected to take a 
strong stand on this issue — he did, 
even as a humble MP--and is 
thought to be the brain behind 
suggesting that the new regime 
question the previous one’s 
larges.se with excise refunds. 

On the other hand, firmly 
believes that agriculture and 
fertiliser subsidies should continue. 

SUBRAMANIAM SWAMY, 

commerce minister: Knows his 
economics, and is respected for it. 
A person whose views the PM and 
his colleagues respect, even if they 
don’t agree with all of them. As 
right-winger, he prefers a market, 
or capitalist, economy (see inter- 
view on page 22) but as a reali.st. 


agrees with Shekhar on self- 
reliance. 

Swamy regards the civil service 
as a necessary evil, but will not take 
any lip from bureaucrats. He thinks 
straight, moves fast and likes 
action. In barely over a month, he 
has scrapped Bharat Business 
International Ltd, a trade organisa- 
tion, has agreed to scrap rupee 
trade deals with Poland and 
Czechoslovakia. Is believed to 
have suggested reducing benefits to 
the diamond industry because 
while it imports vast quantities of 


uncut stones, it docs not earn 
enough when it exports them 
polished and pretty. Swamy would 
also like chunks of public sector 
equity sold to private industry, so 
that they become more efficient 
and a lot more accountable. 

KAMAL MORARKA, minister 
of state at the PMO: The man 

who everyone turns to for advice, 
including the PM. And business- 
men fear, because he knows all 
their tricks. Morarka ran Gannon 
Dunkerley before Shekhar roped 
him in. Believes that India’s 
industrialists have it far too easy, 
and multinationals are far too 
over-rated, and is said to be the 
prime mover behind endorsing 
moves again.st both groups. 

Thinks that the private sector, 
instead of complaining that the 
government is not privatising the 
public sector, should help out by 
buying the more inefficient units 
and using management skills to 



KAMAL MORARKA: the man DIGVIJAY SINGH: the enforcer, 
who everyone turns to for advice. Makes a decent team with his 
And businessmen fear senior, Yashwant Sinha 


36 


SUNDAY 6—12 January 1961 





COVER STORY 


turn these into productive assets. 

Is powerful. Has uncluttered 
access to Shekhar, who implicitly 
believes in his judgement, knowing 
also that Morarka always speaks 
his mind. And Yashwant Sinha, 
before he makes a policy 
statement, makes sure he runs the 
ideas by Morarka. 

MANMOHAN SINGH, chief 
economic adviser to the PM: 

Soft-spoken and modest. Yet, his 
suggestions are taken seriously. 
More seriously than Rajiv Gandhi 
took them when Singh was deputy 
chairman of the Planning Commis- 
sion, and said planners were a 
bunch of jokers. Perhaps they are, 
but vSingh is not. 

Perhaps if Rajiv had listened to 
Singh, the economic situation may 
not have been quite so bad. The 
gentleman economist was also 
Governor of the Reserve Bank of 
India. 

Singh is ideologically straight 
and 'believes that economic policy 
should be moulded to real needs, 
not political demands. If India 
needs to go to the IMF, so be it. If 
taxes need to be raised, so be it. If 
subsidies need to he cut... and so 
on. 

SURINDER KUMAR GOYAL, 
professor: Though the PM takes 
him very .seriously, Goyal, a 
professor with the Indian Institute 
of Public Administration, is not 
taken too seriously by anybody 
else. Because, he is considered to 
be too socialistic. 

Goyal sits in on major policy 
meetings, frequently meets the PM 
and frequently lunches with sundry 
ministers He thinks the private 
sector is a load of fertiliser and 
should be taxed into nothingness, 
the affluent arc actually a drain on 
the economy and deserve no 
benefits, multinationals are no- 
thing better than cheats and 
previous administrations have done 
nothing at alf to help India. 
Consumption should be curbed and 
rural India, he believes, is the key 
to the future. 

On the other hand, he does 
believe fertiliser subsidies are 
excessive, the public sector is 
inefficient and needs sprucing up, 
and the PM, unless he moves very, 
very quickly and decisively, will 
mess tnings up. 


in the government. It appears that the 
magnitude of the problem is so great 
that there is a danger of expedient 
moves at the expense of coherent 
thought. 

Reducing government expendi- 
ture: “Ten per cent cuts on govern- 
ment expenditure have been imposed 
by the last regime,” says deputy fi- 
nance minister Singh. “We arc enforc- 
ing it.” This basically means continua- 
tion of a policy which will save the 
government Rs 300 crorcs or so. 

While this is good money, the gov- 
ernment is totally undecided on how 
to cut other expenses. On the public 


sector and subsidies, toi example. 
Government incentives on exports are 
crucial because, as Bhatu says, “you 
need exports desperately”. Fine, but 
the government is totally unwilling to 
reduce subsidies on agriculture, ferti- 
liser and food — the lation shop sys- 
tem — because it has political over- 
tones. These together eat up the gov- 
ernment's revenue collection till 
November, or Rs 30,()(K) crores. From 
all the people involved in policy- 
makii^ (see box: The piggy-bankers), 
only Goyal thinks fertiliser subsidies 
should be reduced. The ration shop 
system should be modified, he feels, 
because the better-off also buy 
groceries there, when it should be only 
for the poor. 

And while commerce minister 
Swamy and a handful of others talk 
about selling off 40 per cent of public 


sector equity to private shareholders, 
in the hope of reducing government 
cost and increasing accountability, 
there is as yet no concrete measure on 
the horizon. Not much is likely to 
happen here. In fact, agriculture sub- 
sidies may actually increase. 

increasing revenue: No new taxes, 
the PM promised last month. Then, he 
did a George Bush and imposed levies 
on income tax, customs and exci.se, 
which will fetch the government Rs 
2,200 crores in revenue. Raising 
money is not a bad thing, but there is 
no point going on increasing levies if 
expenditure is not reduced. 


The government is working on a 
simple — and time-honoured — logic. 
Those who can pay, tax the hell out of 
them. Those who cannot — or those 
you think cannot, leave them be. 
Which means agriculture, entirely. 
And the increasingly powerful, and 
pampered, small-scale industry. “You 
can’t just throw up your hands,” says 
Bhatty, the economist. The govern- 
ment, however, is doing just that. 

Digvijay Singh, tor example, justi- 
fies new taxes by saying the matter is 
“urgent” and Sinha does his bit by 
claiming it is all to “reduce the budget 
deficit”. Sinha also hedges when asked 
if the budget for 1991-^2 is going to he 
harsh on people. His you-will-have-to- 
wait-and-see attitude is a portent of 
more taxes, more excise, more every- 
thing. 



I AGRICULTURE: the government has flatly refused to cut agricultural subsidies 


SUNDAY 6— 12 January 1991 


37 



COVER STORY 


The last lai^ 


After being dismissed for years, non-resident 
Indians find theirmoney is in demand 'back home* 

M trying to find out the I pie who want to invest here see 

WW liurdles which NRIs (non- what is haoDenina to me and thev 


WW hurdles which NRIs (non- 
resident Indians) are complaining 
about/’ says deputy finance minis- 
ter Digvijay Singh. “Hopefully, we 
will be able to do something in a 
month ot so, and provide an oppor- 
tunity for NRIs to come here.” 

Singh is being studiously casual, 
but he could well have put it 
another way: “WeVe broke, the 
economy is finished. I know you 
have been ignored all these years, 
but we desperately need your 
money.” 

That is the truth and the govern- 
ment knows it. NRIs number about 


pie who want to invest here see 
what is happening to me and they 
get wary.” 

A lot has happened to Chhabria. 
Starting three years ago, he picked 
up Dunlop, Shaw Wallace, and a 
string of smaller — though well- 
known — companies. Then, while 
the Congress! I) still ruled, his ex- 
pansion plans were blocked. 

Soon, it appeared that it was not 
exactly a regime that was after him, 
but the system. The V.P. Singh 
I government saw his credit blocked, 
the Board for Industrial and Finan- 
cial Reconstruction refused to bail 
I out sick companies Chhabria had 


Ml 


NRIs are 
sceptical about 
India. Both M.R. 
Chhabria (right) 
and Swraj Paul 
have had bad 
experiences 
with the Indian 
government 



SO lakhs worldwide, and are mostly 
hardworking, successful and — this 
is crucial — ^wealthy. As far as the 
government is concerned, NRIs 
represent a US $ five billion (Rs 
90,000 crores) kitty of investible 
funds. 

There is a problem, however. 
NRIs are sceptical about India. To 
them, this country represents the 
ills they have left behind— low 
salaries, limited opportunities, 
riots, red tape, a nerve-shattering 
bureaucracy and a despondent sys- 
tem of governance. 

“If the government wants to 
open up the markets to NRIs," says 
Manohar ‘Manu’ Rajaram Chhab- 
ria, who controls Dunlop India Ltd 
and Sk|W Wallace & Co, “they 
miist sIh harassment of NRIs who 
wg^yi) mytfst in this country. Peo- 


picked up and censured Shaw Wal- 
lace. 

Another NRI example: Swraj 
Paul. Chairman of the London- 
based Caparo Group, a pound 
sterling 430 million (Rs 1,462 
crcTres) enterprise, Paul tried his 
Indian moves in 1984. Realising 
how easy most Indian companies 
were to takeover— -usually, the 
promoters held only two to eight 
per cent of the shares, but managed 
them anyway — he quietly bought 
10 per cent stakes in DCM and 
Escorts Ltd. Then, Paul said he 
should run the companies as he 
owned more than the Shrirams and 
the Nandas. A perfectly preda- 
tory — and acceptable — business 
move. 

Not here, though. The fight- 
back — not a counter-bid. but plain 


S atriotic’ lobbying-— was so fierce 
at Paul was forced to sell his 
holdings back. Despite the fact that 
he was close to Prime Minister In- 
dira Gandhi. Disgusted, Paul gave 
up his plans of investing in India. 
“For me, personally,” says Paul, “it 
has been a very bad experience.” 

Digvijay, for his part, is thinking 
up innovative schemes to lure 
them. Cut red tape, for one, and 
offer NRIs attractive incentives. 
“This is one area where attempts 
have been made earlier,” he says, 
“but it was not a proper attempt.” 
The government is so desperate for 
NRI money that there is even talk 
of scrapping a decades-old policy: 
offer NRIs the facility of holding 
dual citizenship — in India and their 
country of residence — in exchange 
for a modest sum, say US $10, 000 
(or Rs 1.8 lakhs). And something 
still more desperate: ask NRIs to 
sdnd in cheques for US $100 each 
as donation, and mop up Rs 900 
crores. 

Paul says that NRIs arc used to 
running a business not as a favour 
of the government, but as a busi- 
ness. “NRIs have survived in a 
competitive world,” says Paul. 
“They haven't had to give money 
to the Prime Minister of England 
or the President of the US for 
licences.” Besides, he says, “there 
is no use trying to get them to come 
here because you need their 
money, they (the government) will 
have to decide whether they want 
NRIs.” 

They do, say government offi- 
cials. They have also decided that 
NRIs are not suspect any longer, 
and that it makes far better sense to 
invite NRIs than invite multina- 
tional companies. 

If that is true, NRIs would be 
delighted. “If this happens,” says 
Chhabria, “technology will come 
in, and so will expertise, and conse- 
quently, there will be more jobs, 
the economy will improve and then 
we will be able to move out of this 
rut.” Paul, for his part, also be- 
lieves that NRIs will introduce a 
much-needed competitive element 
in India, and starting with com- 
panies, will help the economy be- 
come more efficient. “My shaking 
up Escorts has made it a better 
icoinpany/' he says with a laugh, 
“And DCM. Earlier, it was a 
sleepy company/’ 


SUNDAY 6^ 12 January 



COVER STORY 



CONSUMER GOODS: all such products could be taxed into oblivion 


Reducing inflation: Another prob- 
lem area. Everybody is agreed that 
inflation is bad for the country. But 
they are totally split on how to reduce 
it. The easy way out, again, is to bor- 
row from abroad — as this government 
will do — pump the money into the 
economy, pay for imports, and so on. 
The debt position is so bad that bor- 
rowings cannot sustain us forever. 

Another idea is to pull in black 
money. But nobody has any ideas on 
how to go about doing it. When the 
entire structure is so full of loopholes, 
corruption and bad policy, it is very 
unlikely that anything will happen. 
Pulling in Rs 500 denomination notes 
will not help much at all. 

Yet another idea could set off a 
storm. There is talk in government 
circles that a good way to reduce infla- 
tion is to pull out huge amounts of 
over-rated money from the economy. 
Freezing dearness allowances for em- 
ployees on the one hand and freezing 
dividend payments by companies on 
the other, is an idea If this comes 
through, it is sure to set off a ni^issive 
furore. So, says the government, cre- 
ate a bank fund of sorts for people, 
where allowances and dividend*- can 
be deposited, and return them to the 
people after the economic situation 
becomes better. 

Encouraging foreign investment: 

Alright, says the government. But 
multinationals can go to hell This is 
one of the few counts that everyone is 
agreed on. Another point of agree- 
ment: non-resident Indians (NRTs) are 
preferable to multinationals (see box. 
The last But nobody knows 

exactly how to. The proposals’- un- 
official, as yet — range from the prac- 
tical to the pathetic. 

Give NRls incentives, ranging from 
buying companies to participating in 
joint ventures with either private in- 
dustry or the state-run one. C ut red 
tape. These are practical. A little less 
practical is to graiit NRIs the privilege 
of holding dual citizenship — of India 
and their present country of resi- 
dence — for a price, say, US $10,000. 
Now, for the pathetic: send out an 
SOS worldwide for NRI donations 
with the catchline "save your 
country”. 

Right now, however, NRIs are so 
sceptical about India that these ideas 
may just end up in the garbage bin. 

The good thing with this govern- 
ment is that they are actually thinking 
about solutions. However wrong. 


bizarre— and yes, laudable, even — 
they may be. This fact alone is enough 
reason for the people of India to re- 
joice: they have seen thoughtless 
approaches for far too long. 

And here, they can thank C'handra 
Shekhar for at least trying to do some- 
thing to stem the mess. And thank 


RAJIV GANDHI: the mess started 
getting messier during his reign 




Yashwant Sinha for taking the same 
tack. For encouraging suggestions 
from his colleagues and bureaucrats 
on how to beat the bankruptcy 
problem. 

There are a few hitches, however, 
besides the fact that not everyone is 
agreed on everything. One: all gov- 
ernments live for political justification 
for their actions, and this government 
is not expected to be any different 
from the others. Two: though the gov- 
ernment appears to be increasingly 
acceptable in the minds of the people: 
they are a minority government, with 
no mandate to back it and enough 
people who would love to sec its de- 
mise. 

Three: the imponderable nature of 
the Gulf situation which is totally out 
of India's hands. Finance minister 
Sinha cannot cxactl> wave a magic 
wand and wind up the hostility be- 
tween Iraq and the US. And four: the 
odds are against Sinha, and the 
chances of him and this government 
messing up are greater than the 
chances of success. 

Yes, there is a way out of the mess, 
but things arc so bad, and actions so 
politically interlinked, that it is diffi- 
cult to predict anything with certainty. 
1991 could well be the year India 
breathes again. It could also be the 
year when it goes down the drain. 

Happy Nervous Year. • 

Sudeep Chakravarti/New Delhi and 
Cahutia with Godfrey 
f^reira/Bomhay 


SUNDAY 6-12 January 1991 


39 




COVER STORY 



not up to cheatii^’ 


Finance minister Yashwant Sinha on how he plans to tackle 

the economic mess 



Sunday: Why are you raising taxes? 
Yashwant Sinha: Taxes arc being 
raised because we have to make multi- 
pronged efforts to reduce the budget 
deficit. It has gone out of line because 
of the various developments like the 
Gulf crisis, reduced revenue collection 
and other disturbances which led to 
the decline in production. Especially 
crude oil production, which has gone 
down by 2.4 million tonnes. So, all 
these things are responsible for the 
deficit. 

The first thing we are trying to re- 
duce is government expenditure, ruth- 
lessly, as much as we can. 1 know few 
persons arc saying that nothing much 
IS being done, but I am sure that by 
the end of this financial year we would 
be able to reduce Rs 1 ,800 crores in 
government expenditure. 

Second is increasing revenue collec- 
tion. It has gone down substantially 
and I am personally looking after this 
matter with the tax officials and trying 
(to enforce) the best compliance of tax 
laws to make up tor the loss. I am also 
appealing to trade and industry to 
cooperate with the government, so we 
are not required to take any harsh 
measures. I have already said that we 
do not believe in the raid raj. I do not 
believe in humiliating the people, but 
what is due has to be paid to the 
government. 

Q: Why have revenue collections 
dropped? 

A: We get excise out of crude oil, and 
crude oil production has dropped be- 
cause of the disturbances since Au- 
gust. Transportation had become diffi- 
cult because of these disturbances. 
Also, because of the restrictions on 
supply of diesel by the previous gov- 
ernment, transportation suffered and 
it led to a decline in excise duty. 

Thirdly, because of the balance of 
payments situation, certain restric- 
tions have been imposed on imports, 
which led to a contraction of imports. 

YASHWANT SINHA: can he pull the 
country out of the depths? 


40 


•unday 6— 12 January 1901 




As a result, customs duty (collection) I 
declined. * 

There have been large refunds in 
income tax. This is the reason being 
mentioned for the decline in income 
tax. All these things accounted for the 
shortage. 

Q; Just how bad is our money situa- 
tion? 

A: It’s pretty... It is difficult but man- 
ageable. We have also said in Parlia- 
ment that if we make determined 
efforts we can improve the situation. 

I have already outlined some of the 
measures in my statement in Parlia- 
ment (on 27 December). I think I have 
to take certain steps to get out of the 
crisis we are facing in the budget. The 
crisis IS from the imbalance in the 
budget. Also, because of the balance 
of payments and prices. These arc the 
things where we went wrong. 

Q: Are you thinking about liberalising 
the economy? 

A: I don't know what one means by 
liberalisation. I think ‘liberali.sation’ is 
one-word that has been understood b\ 
different people. As tar as 
liberalisation m terms ot reduc- 
ing bureaucratic control is concerned, 
as far as the liberalisation in terms ot 
fixing deadlines are concerned, the 
Prime Minister hirnsell has said that 
he is all for liberalisation. I think the 
government stands for that 

But if liberalisation means that m a 
scarce resource India you permit mar- 
ket forces total freedom, I don’t thuik 
that would be what we intend to do. 

Q: Are you talking about multinational 
companies? 

A: Not only multinationals. 1 mean the 
tendency of investment in thi.> country 
has been to go in for consumer goods. 
That means if you leave the market 
forces free, they will go to high-profit 
areas which is the consumer area. 
They will never go by (national) 
priorities. In that case someone has to 
guide them. 

And it has been seen that the pri- 
vate sector just gives up and goes. 
There are many examples where the 
private sector has not been able to 
withstand pressure from market 
forces, and the government had to bail 
out the baby. 

Q: Do you think inflation will ever 
come down? 

A: Inflation can be controlled. You 
see, what has happened this year is a 
combination of factors which need not 


repeat itself in the future. And as I 
said, if we make determined efforts it 
is possible to bring down prices. 

Q: Will you be able to turn black 
money into white? 

A: The other thing is to turn black 
money into white. It has been admit- 
ted by everyone that there is a large 
amount of black money in circulation, 
and my predecessor (Madhu Danda- 
vate) had announced that he will be 
coming up with schemes to mop up 
black money. No schemes were pre- 
pared or thought of by the time we 
took over. 

Now', I don’t know if something can 
be done within the few months that 
are left in the current financial year, 
but certainly, in the next financial year 
(1991-92) we will think of s^i)me mea- 
sures. The unrestricted circulation of 
black mone\ in our economy ovei 
which nobody has any control is a 
situation that makes a mockery of all 
government policy. 

We might be doing something to 


restrict money supply in order to have 
some control over prices, but that has 
absolutely no impact on the circula- 
tion of black money. It is going into 
speculation, it is going into the con- 
sumer industry, it is fuelling inflation. 
It is not going into productive areas. 
So we have to think about it very 
carefully, b'or, while black money has 
to be mopped up, one would not like 
to do anything which will put a pre- 
mium on tax evasion. 

Q: What areas are you going to open 
up for multinationals? 

A: There is no question of opening up 
any specific area for multinationals. 
We might identify certain areas where 
foreign technology or foreign invest- 
ment would be welcome to the extent 
that multinationals have something 
useful to offer. One can look into this. 


Q: What about the cases of excise re- 
funds? It is widely regarded as a 
scandal. 

A: 1 have already spoken on the sub- 
ject in the Lok Sabha, and I have 
already said that I am making legisla- 
tion to look into any unjust enrich- 
ment. 

Q: Are you going to institute any en- 
quiry? 

A: 1 have already said in the House 
that if an enquiry becomes necessary 
then we shall certainly not shirk from 
holding an enquiry. 

Q: Are you going to create a consumer 
fund for depositing excise refunds? 

A: Yes, that is the general idea. 

Q: People generally expect the next 
budget to be quite harsh. Will it? 

A: It IS difficult for me to say anything 
about the budget at this stage. You 
will have to wait and see. 

Q: Will you increase taxes before the 


budget? And later present a no-new- 
tax budget? 

A: I have already increased taxes in 
some areas and as far as the next 
budget is concerned, I cannot com- 
ment on it. But I am not up to cheat- 
ing by raising taxes now and then pre- 
senting a no-tax budget later. I have 
no such desires. 

Q: What will be the fall-out on the 
Indian economy if a war breaks out in 
the Guin 

A: Then it will be a disaster. 

Q: What do you think are the achieve- 
ments of the previous government in 
economic areas? 

A: Total drift, drift on every front, 
whether it is the economy or anything 
else. 

Inimyiewed by Rmiiv ShuMa/New DeiN 


Madhu Dandavate 
hadanncHinced that 
he will be coming 
up with schemes to 
mop up Mack 
money. No 
schemes were 
prepared or 
thou^tof bythe 
time we took over ’’ 



SUNDAY 6-12 Januwy 1991 


41 


NITNRAI 



BMBMBBM MMMMII jTHE SOUTH BL0CK |MMB— 

INDER MALHOTRA 

Bonn or Berlin? 

But deciding on the capital is not the only problem for unified Germany 


Q In a rather sensible 
move, the Indian 
government has 
bought for the use of 
its diplomatic mission 
in Berlin, substantial 
and attractive prop- 
erty. The last time I 
had crossed the now demolished Ber- 
lin Wall to visit him, the Indian 
ambassador to the then German 
Democratic Republic (GDR) lived in 
a block of flats and had his chancery in 
a nondescript building. -Shortly before 
its disappearance, the GDR govern- 
ment agreed to the request of the 


Indian ambassador, Kamlcsh Sharma, 
to sell to India three neighbouring 
villas. One of these houses Sharma 
and his family, another serves as the 
chancery and the third is the Indian 
cultural centre. 

Sharma is an old German hand. 
Way back in 1969, when I first saw 
him, he was an up and coming first 
secretary in the Indian embassy in 
West Germany. The second time I ran 
into him in Bonn, he was deputy chief 
of mission and very highly spoken of 
by his boss, the then ambassador, 
Ram Sathe. Last year, he was trans- 
ferred from Geneve to East Berlin in 
the belief that he would be the 
appropriate man, along with the 
much-praised veteran on the other 


side of the divide in Bonn, A. Madha- 
van, to see through the German uni- 
fication, then expected to take a mini- 
mum of three years! 

Thanks to the astonishingly fast 
completion of the process, an interest- 
ing diplomatic situation has arisen in 
the city from which the only two world 
wars mankind has known were laun- 
ched during the first half of this 
century. There are any number of 
former ambassadors in Berlin — func- 
tioning, as in Sharma’s case, under the 
new title of “representatives’' of their 
re.spective countries or as consul- 
generals — holding fast to property 


which they have either managed to 
buy or for which they pay remarkably 
low rents prevailing in the former 
GDR. But there are no embassies any 
more. 

However, the general expectation is 
that sooner or later, perhaps sooner 
rather than later, Berlin would once 
again become the seat of the reunified 
Germany’s government. But this can- 
not happen without a fierce struggle 
with those who want the government 
to stay on in Bonn. 

Even so, foreigners seem to be 
betting on Berlin. Japan, for instance, 
has concentrated all its presence in 
Berlin in its consulate-general in the 
western part of the city, which is a 
huge and imposing building dating 


back to the Third Reich. Evidently, it 
completely escaped the city’s perva- 
sive destruction during the war. 
Another massive diplomatic building 
in Berlin which stands as it did in the 
Thirties, though nicely lenovated, be- 
longs to the Italians. But all these pale 
into insignificance, in sheer size, if in 
nothing else, when compared with the 
former Soviet embassy, now consu- 
late-general, in East Berlin in a prime 
.spot on the celebrated Untcr den 
Linden. 

Meanwhile, it is perhaps needless to 
say that real estate prices and rents in 
Berlin (or really the western part of 
Berlin, where alone the private mar- 
ket operates even now) are shooting 
up to as ridiculous levels as in New 
Delhi and Bombay. How foolish the 
South Block was in not buying up the 
habitat of the consulate-general in 
West Berlin, traditionally maintained 
even after diplomatic relations with 
the GDR were established. The west- 
ern consulate-general has now been 
abolished, its last incumbent, Doda- 
mani, a former ambas.sador to the 
GDR and commissioner in Hong 
Kong, transferred and the property 
rented by it returned to the landlord! 

Enough about the foreign diplomats 
stationed in Berlin, looking forward to 
brisk and professionally satisfying 
activity for themselves and their suc- 
cessors. What about the thousands of 
former East German diplomats who 
are virtually in limbo, drawing their 
old salaries (which are nearly half of 
their West German counterparts) and 
even more worried about their future 
than their 200,000 counterparts in the 
bloated home bureaucracy of the for- 
mer GDR. 

Only a handful of the Eastern diplo- 
mats have been co-opted in foreign 
service of reunified Germany, one of 
whom has joined the German delega- 
tion to the UN. All the rest are now 
being “thoroughly screened” on the 
suspicion that an unduly large propor- 
tion of them were, in fact, working for 
Stasi, the infamous East German sec- 
ret service, described by some as a 
“combination of the KGB, the Pakis- 
tani ISl and the Gestapo”.# 



42 


SUNDAY S-1 2 January 1991 









SWEET ANDi 


KHUSHWANT SINGH 


In love with Delhi 


1 find it difficult to 
understand why Ben- 
galis love Calcutta, 
Madrasis love Mad- 
ras and Bombayites 
love Bombay. There 
is very little lovable 
about these British made cities with 
short histories and scarcely any histor- 
ical monuments. 1 have no such diffi- 
culty in understanding why Delhiwalas 
love Delhi : it has everything that 
makes a city lovable — a past that goes 
way beyond the birth of Christ, 
beautiful historic monuments of the 
like, which none of our metropolitan 
cities has and greenery unsurpassed 
by any other capital of the world. The 
only item in which Delhi is woefully 
deficient is the human element. Delhi 
has evolved its own caste system based 
on bureaucratic hierarchy, where, 
people worth their salt like artists, 
poets, writers, musicians and danceis 
come very low down the list. It wasn’t 
always so. During 250 years of 
Mughal rule, the most sought after 
people outside the palace and the 
narem were saintly men, scholars, 
poets and beautiful courtesans. From 
the early years of the Raj right upto 
Independence, the people who mat- 
tered were the old and aristocracy of 
nawabs, rich merchants and real estate 
owners like the Chunna Mals and the 
famous Hakeems of Billimaran. De- 
lhi’s cultural life was based on Urdu 
mushairas and mujras performed by 
the dancing girls of Chawri Bazar. It 
was the exodus of the Muslim elite and 
the massive influx of Punjabi refugees 
that killed most of what Delhi was 
proud of. Its glorious past survives 
only in its ancient monuments. Its 
present is Punjabi dhabas, bhangra 
and babus from all over the country. 

The one unique feature of Delhi 
which no other metropolitan city has is 
that you don’t have to be born and 
bred in it to fall in love with it. Many 
outsiders have fallen for its charms. 
Among the most distinguished were 
the Jhabvalas. He came from Bombay 
to set up his practice as an architect. 
His wife, Ruth Prawer, Polish-Jewish 
and domiciled in England, found her 
true expression as a writer of fiction in 
Delhi. She is extremely short-sighted 
and it took her some years to pick up 


Hindustani. Her first few novels were 
largely based on what her husband 
told her: he is a gifted raconteur and 
an excellent mimic. What will outlive 
Ruth are novels on Delhi. And what 
will outlive her husband,C.S. Jhabva- 
la’s fame as an architect are his sketch- 
es, Delhi— Stones and Streets(Rsiw\ 
Dayal) published this week. 

Having known the Jhabvalas for 
almost 10 years, I didn’t suspect he 
had it in him. Apparently, he spent his 
holidays going round the monuments 
of Delhi armed with his pencil and 
sketching pad and spent hours making 
his drawings. He did not show them to 
any of his Indian friends. It was under 
persuasion of his wife that he first 


exhibited his collection in New York. 
They won instant acclaim. It was on 
his last visit to Delhi that he bashfully 
let me take a look at them. 1 was 
enthralled. He refuses to sell his work 
to anyone. The best one can do is to 
get hold of his massive coffee-tabler 
designed as a portfolio, detach the 
pictures and have ihem framed. They 
will make any Delhiwala proud of his 
city. 

In addition to ether claims to fame, 
Delhi has the distinction of having 
more books written on it than any 
other city of India. You can get dozens 
of them with photographs in black and 
white and colour. Some of them have 
captured its people and its bazaars. 


Few, if any, have been able to bring its 
monuments alive: they seem to elude 
the best of photographers. This, Jhab- 
vala has been able to achieve with 
pencil and paper as no artist before 
nim has done. 


Wrong item 

While examining the accounts of a 
co-operative, an indignant woman 
MLA demanded to know why large 
sums had been paid to sundaris 
(beautiful women). After many hours 
spent in re-checking the various en- 
tries, an alert official saw the light — 


the item was titled “Sundries”. 
(Contributed by Ajay Kumar, Jaipur) 

Petrol-saving device 

Vas Raman of New Delhi relates an 
amusing experience he had on the 
road recently, when petrol was in 
short supply. He had pulled up at a 
traffic signal when it turned red. A 
youngster suddenly braked his motor- 
cycle in front barely missing him. 
“What’s the great hurry?” asked Ra- 
man angrily. 

He replied with a smile “Gentle- 
man, I am in a hurry to reach home 
before my tank gets empty." 
(Contributed by Vas Raman, New 
Delhi) • 




SUNDAY fr~12J«iu«y1W1 



Public relations, shekhar style 


imBIII The media 
BHBHHe have never 
been too kind to him. 
But Qiandra Shekhar is 
not one to bear grudges, 
if his performance at the 
meet-the-press program- 
me at the Delhi Press 
Club was anything to go 
by. 

And he’s certainly out 
to make friends and in- 
fluence journos. 

Hence, the jovial, hail- 
fellow-well-met attitude 
that characterised the 
PM. Nearly every jour- 
nalist present was 
addressed by name and 
all questions, no matter 


how disagreeable, were 
answered with a smile. 

A sample: 

On issuing warnings to 
everyone: “I have not 
got that habit. I never 


warn.” 

On Bofors: “It cannot 
solve the problems of 
the price rise, com- 
munalism, etc. The gov- 
ernment should not 


waste its entire energies 
on Bofors.” 

But the carefully- 
rehearsed air that sur- 
rounded the entire exer- 
cise was quite destroyed 
when Shekhar made 
what could only be de- 
scribed as a Freudian 
slip. 

His Cabinet, he dis- 
closed, would only be 
expanded after the elec- 
tions. 

Of course, Shekhar 
recovered fast, to clarify 
that he'd actually meant 
the next Parliament ses- 
sion. 

But by then, the audi- 
ence was roiling in the 
aisles. And Shekhar, to 
retrieve the situation 
somewhat, gamely 
joined in the laughter. 



Chandra ShaUnR winning frtonds and inllueiiclnf Journos 


Damn THOSE DAMS! 


ASHOKC CHAKRABORTY 



The agita- 
tion against 
the Narmada project 
continues. And leading 
the protest movement is 
noted social worker 


Baba Amte, ably sup- 
ported by the tribal re- 
sidents who will be dis- 
placed if the Sardar 
Sarovar dam were to be 
constructed. 

Baba Amte began a 
march to Delhi, at the 
head of several thousand 
activists, on 25 Decem- 
ber and was scheduled to 
meet President Venk- 
ataraman on the 27th to 
submit a memorandum 
of demands to him. The 
Narmada Bachao Ando- 
lan would also hold a 
day-long dhama in the 
capital to draw the atten- 
tion of the government 
to this issue. 

And if none of this has 
an impact on the author- 
ities, says Amte, all of us 
had just as well assume 
jal samadhi, to mourn 
the imminent destruc- 
tion of our eco-system. 


The champ as entertainer 


“1 am still 
the greates- 

t,” he said, and jabbed at 
the nearest journalist. 
But Mohammad Ali, 
one-time king of the 
ring, had quite lost the 
sting which once in- 
spired song- writers* and 
enthralled boxing enthu- 
siasts the world over. 

Age and Parkinson’s dis- 
ease had reduced the 
former champion to a 
shadow of his former 
self, but the newsmen 
assembled at his press 
conference in Calcutta 
weren’t complaining. 

For, Ali managed to 
keep them spell-bound 
anyway, with his yo^c 
demonstrations, levita- 
tion and the odd magic 
'trick (pulling a handker- 
chief out of thin air). 

In Calcutta to choose 
locales for his four-hour 
film. The Whole 


Story, which would cov- 
er his trips to Africa, 
Europe and Asia and 
dwell on the plight of the 
orphaned children he 
met during his visits, Ali 
took time off to meet 
Mother Teresa at her 
home. 

And yes, he spent 
some time with the chil- 
dren there, as well. 



WNMV»-12 Jmaiy in, 





Compiled by SEEMAGOSWAMI 


Verse 

WORSE 


AND 


“There is no 
God but 
Allah and Mohammad is 
his last Prophet.” 

It was with these 
words that Salman 
Rushdie announced that 
he’d formally accepted 
Islam as his religion. 
And that he disavowed 
those sections of his 
book The Satanic Verses 
which had led Imam 
Khomeini to issue a 
death sentence on him. 

In a signed statement, 
released by the Islamic 
Society for the Promo- 
tion of Religious Toler- 



dklntlMlpeiliMr 

ance in the United King- 
dom, Rushdie declared: 
“I do not agree with any 
statement in my novel 
uttered by any of the 
characters who insult the 
Prophet Mohammad or 
who cast aspersions on 
Islam or upon the au- 
thenticity of the Holy 
Koran.” 

But the Iranians were 
not be mollified. The de- 
cree, said the country’s 
spiritual leader. Ayatol- 
lah Ali Khameini, could 
not be rescinded as it 
was a “divine verdict”. 
No, not even if Rushdie 
“repents and becomes 
the most pious man of 
his time”. 


Kesari is 

BETTER THAN 
GREEN 


From the 

,r ' ■ jailor of the 

bears to the “daughter of 
Punjab" it’s been quite a 
political journey for 
Maneka Gandhi. 


Obviously, the other 
Mrs G’s standing in the 
Shekhar government is 
much more secure than 
it was in the Raja’s reg- 
ime, for the Queen of 
Green is now concerning 
herself with all things 
1 toar/ as well— and pon- 
f tificating on the Punjab 
problem, for one. A far 
^ cry from those days 
1 when she couldn’t even 
^ transfer secretarial staff 
^ without getting clear- 
1 ance from Nilamani 
% Routray. 

1 On a whirlwind tour of 
I Punjab recently, Man- 
I'eka visited Amritsar and 



0f Punjab 


addressed public meet- 
ings at Kapurthala, 
Jalandhar and Hoshiar- 
pur district. And no, the 
minister of state for en- 
vironment didn’t talk ab- 
out the need for reaf- 
forestation or the pre- 
servation of endangered 
species. Instead, the 


Dhotis for discounts 


If it’s Thurs- 
day (or Fri- 
day) it had better be a 
dhoti. That’s if you are 
planning to avail of a SO 
'per cent discount at 
'iTDC (India Tourism 
Development Corpora- 
tion) hotels and res- 
taurants. 

And, if you do check 
in, 'your legs encased in a 
couple of yards of mus- 
lin, remember to thank 
the venerable Tau for 
the deductions. For, it is 
only on the deputy 
prime minister’s instruc- 
tions that this uni^e 
facility came on oner. 


Of course, Devi Lai’s 
intention was to help his 

rural brethren “shed 
their inferiority com- 
plex” and avail of the 

Duvi Lab dottiM iMke 
UwNi 



lUJeSUUlUAA 


lady, once described as a 
reincarnation of Durga, 
held forth on how best 
the Punjab problem 
could be solved. Restore 
popular government in 
the state, she said, and a 
semblance of normalcy 
would follow. 

It is, qf course, 
another matter that such 
opinions are in direct 
opposition to those held 
by the Union govern- 
ment. 

But more to the point, 
why has Maneka sud- 
denly rediscovered her 
roots? 

Does it have some- 
thing to do with the fact 
that a concerted effort is 
on to ensure that she 
doesn’t stand for re- 
election from Pilibhit? 

In which event, the 
freckle-faced minister 
would have to look for 
another constituency. 

And what better hunt- 
ing ground for a Sikhni 
than the sarson fields of 
Punjab. 


luxury facilities available 
in I'TDC hotels, without 
wonying as to what the 
waiter thought of their 
table manners. He’d in- 
itiated an identical 
scheme in Haryana dur- 
ing his tenure as chief 
minister, the Tau de- 
clared, and that had 
proved to be a big hit. 
So, there was no reason 
to presume that it 
wouldn’t work on a 
national level. 

Thursdays and Fri- 
days, then, will be 
“Villagers’ Days” at ail 
ITDC establishments. 

So, get out your dhotis 
and turbans. 

And don’t forget to 
carry your hookah into 
the lobby. 


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CITYSCAPE 













^^1 






#• 




WHI 


was my 
city? 


Signs of urban decay 
are only too apparent 
in Bangalore 


I t achieved fame as a pensioner’s 
paradise, a garden city amidst 
whose verdant green one could 
forget the cut-throat • competi- 
tiveness of the working world. 
And, for some years the reality of 
Bangalore conformed to the image. 
Pleasingly laid-out. each house with a 
bit of green attached, wide roads with 
none of the mad traffic rush which 
characterised metropolitan centres, 
invigorating weather and an absence 
of air — and other kinds of — pollution, 
the city was the place to retire to after 
a lifetime of keeping up with the 
Roys — or the Reddys, for that matter. 

No longer. Development has 
changed the face of Bangalore beyond 
recognition. Not only has the city 
sprawled further than the boundaries 
set by its 16 th century founder, Kem- 
pegowda, the influx of industrial and 
electronic units into what has come to 
be known as the Silicon Valley of In- 
dia has increased the pressure of 
population on land. Garden spaces are 
being taken up by builders, the weath- 
er has been getting progressively 
worse as the ecological balance of the 
area is disturbed and with the profes- 
sionals, with their wannabee lifestyles, 
moving in the ambience of the city 
has become as harried and enervating 
as, say, Delhi or Bombay. 

The fast-paced growth, not pro- 
vided for by the planners, has been 
accompanied by a deterioration in the 



48 


SUNDAY 6—12 January 1991 





quality of life, the breakdown of civic 
facilities and a resource crunch. Con- 
sider the facts: 

• Bangalore needs 1,335 million litres 
of water every day. Barely half of that 
demand is met. 

• The noise pollution in the city has 
rapidly gone up to unacceptable 
levels. A recent study by the Society 
of Health Administration found that 
the noise levels in Bangalore were as 
follows: 44-57 decibels (DB) in re- 
sidential areas; 84 DB around the air- 
port; 70 DB in commercial areas; and 
80 DB on busy thoroughfares such as 
the Mahatma Gandhi Road. 

The Bureau of Indian Standards 
puts the tolerable level at 55 DB. 

• Air pollution also exceeds the per- 


the abysmal conditions in some of 
them rival anything one could see in 
Dharavi, Bombay. 

• In the mid-Sixties, a ten-fold in- 
crease in power generation attracted a 
number of public sector units into the 
state. Today, in addition to such giants 
as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited 
(BHEL) and Hindustan Machine 
Tools (HMT) there are over 300 
medium-scale units and 12,000 small- 
scale units. And the increased demand 
has led to an unprecedented power 
crunch, which has hit domestic con- 
sumers and industrial units equally 
hard. 

Small wonder then, that an old resi- 
dent such as N. Lakshman Rau, a 
retired IAS officer, says: “I think that 


T he problems, in retrospect, began 
with industrialisation. For, in the 
wake of the industries came people. 
And at that time, nobody gave much 
thought to where they were to be 
housed. Since the supply remained 
stagnant while demand shot up, the 
market forces ensured that prices of 
real-estate sky-rocketed, as did the 
rents. Today, a modest two-bedroom 
house on the outskirts of the city 
would go for Rs 3,000 a month. And 
in addition, a hefty advance of 15 
months rent would also have to be 
paid up. 

But it's not just the middle-classes 
who are hit. Even those with some 
means, who can afford to buy houses, 


SHUTTERBUG 



missable limit, around 350 microgram 
per metei cube, going up to as much 
as 600 in industrial areas, according to 
the readings of monitoring stations set 
up six years ago. 

• The increase in population has set 
up a tremendous pressure on land, 
pushing up real-estate prices by 2,000 
per cent over the last decade. A iwo- 
bedroom flat in the centre of town 
costs around Rs 10 lakhs, with an ex- 
tra Rs 60,000 for parking space. And 
now that the city has spread, even in 
an area such as Indiranagar, consi- 
dered “wilderness” a decade ago, a 
square foot of land costs around Rs 
500. 

• With housing facilities in short supp- 
ly, slums have mushroomed in the 
city, with as many as 400 of them 
“recognised” by the government. And 


there is a definite case in not allowing 
Bangalore to grow any further. If the 
urban sprawl is allowed to expand 
more, it will be at the cost of basic 
facilities.” 

And the boom city could well go 
bust. 

he fast-paced gro%vth 
of Bangalore, not 
provided for by the 
planners, has been 
accompanied by a 
breakdown of civic 
facilities 


wait in queue with 80,000 others who 
have been hanging around for a de- 
cade ui the hope of getting a plot of 
land. And with time, the situation is 
only going to worsen. The population 
of Bangalore now stands at 4.5 mil- 
lion. Around the turn of the century, 
it will reach 7 million, overtaking even 
Madras. And with real-estate showing 
no, or little, appreciable increase, it is 
going to be that much more difficult to 
get a roof over one's head. 

Or to get an adequate water supply. 
I'or, Bangalore has no water source 
nearby which can supply the needs of i 
the inhabitants. When the population | 
was at a manageable level, it was 
possible to make do. In the days of the 
Raj, for example, hishtis used to supp- 
ly water to the memsahibs in their 
animal-skin water bags. But such 


SUNDAY S-12 January 1991 


49 



CITYSCAPE 


primitive methods will no longer do 
now. And the hishtis have been re- 
placed by a modern-day alternative — 
water tankers — who do a flourishing 
business thanks to the continuing wa- 
ter scarcity. 

The tankers, a common feature in 
Madras, made an appearance in Bang- 
alore four years ago, when a severe 
drought hit Karnataka. Today there 
are about a dozen water tanker units, 
which charge between Rs 100-200 per 
tank of water (6,500 litres), depending 
on the distance they have to travel to 


deliver. The Bangalore Water Supply 
and Sewerage Board also provides this 
service, but as with all government 
departments, requests made to it are 
tied up in red tape, and complied with 
only after some delay. Private sup- 
pliers, on the other hand, deliver at 
your doorstep as soon as you make a 
phone call. Of course, their water isn’t 
always too safe, being derived from 
private bore-wells or from tanks on 
the outskirts of the city. 

Hence, the importance attached to 
the Cauvery Water Project, initiated 
in the late Sixties to meet the growing 


demands of the city. The first stage of 
the project, involving bringing the wa- 
ter of the river Cauvery to Bangalore, 
provided an additional 30 million gal- 
lons of water to the city. But it still fell 
short of demand. The second stage 
provided another increase of 30 mil- 
lion gallons, but the shortfall re- 
mained. The third stage is scheduled 
to reach completion by the end of next 
year, bringing an additional 60 million 
gallons to Bangalore. But by then, the 
demand will have again outstripped 
supply. 


M uch the same is true of transport 
facilities, too. The Bangalore 
Transport Service (BTS) has about 
15,000 buses plying on the roads of the 
city. But according to T.K. Jayaraj, 
transport commissioner, there has to 
be a 100 per cent increase if Bangalore 
is to have an efficient and dependable 
public transport service. Such an in- 
crease will, however, take some time 
to come about, and in the interim 
period people rely on personal vehi- 
cles: cars, vans, and increasingly, two- 
wheelers. 

Of the six lakh private-owned vehi- 


cles in Bangalore, cars number 45,000 
and the autorickshaw count stands at 
16,000, while two-wheelers are a 
mind-boggling four lakhs. The two- 
wheeler boom has led to increased 
pressure on the city’s roads, which at 
the best of times, are not equipped to 
deal with heavy traffic. Traffic jams 
and potholes have, therefore, become 
a regular feature. 

And the increased number of vehi- 
cles — and their exhaust fumes — have 
contributed to air pollution, according 
to M. J.S. Kumar of the Pollution Con- 
trol Board, as have the industrial un- 
its. The ten monitoring stations set up 
in various places in the city have con- 
sistently shown an increasing trend in 
air pollution. The noise pollution is 
also considerably above the interna- 
tionally-accepted limits. 

All these factors put together have 
affected the famed Bangalore weath- 
er. Says N. Lakshman Rau: “The mac- 
ro-climate of the city might have re- 
mained the same, but the micro- 
climate has definitely changed.” Most 
residents of the city would agree with 
him. In recent years, most people 
have been sweating out the summers, 
with the heat getting more and more 
intolerable over the years. And win- 
ters are no better, with the slightly 
chill air containing a load of particu- 
late matter. Not surprisingly then, the 
inhabitants of the city have developed 
bad cases of breathing trouble and 
other related illnesses, while the weed 
called ‘‘congress grass” found in 
abundance in the city, gives ashthma 
to many. 

The steady worsening of the situa- 
tion has led to near-paranoia as far as 
the residents of the city are concerned. 
While elder citizens such as Rau are 
insistent that the city should not be 
allowed to spread any further, even 
the civic authorities have become wor- 
ried enough to think up plans to de- 
crease the migration to the city and 
thus reduce the stress on the amenities 
available. Also, the influx of non- 
Kannadigas in large numbers, it was 
felt, was diluting the distinctive char- 
acter of the city, and something should 
be done to prevent this. 

Ramakrishna Hegde, the then chief 
minister, floated the idea of having a 
passport system for the city. Only resi- 
dents would be given the passports 
and those without would have to wait 
for one before settling into the city. 
But as the scheme was fairly revolu- 
tionary and went against the grain of 
the Indian Constitution, it was soon 
dropped. 


SHUHERBUG 



50 


SUNDAY B-12 Jwiuary 1991 




CITYSCAPE 


T he more practical suggestions to 
ease the pressure of population on 
the city included the schemes to set 
up satellite townships. The idea was 
taken up by the city planners and the 
towns of Kengari and Yelahanka came 
into being in the outskirts of Banga- 
lore. But the move soon came to 
naught as the city spread even further, 
engulfing the townships in its midst, 
and turning them into two suburban 
areas of Bangalore. 

Says senior citizen Rau:“The idea of 
satellite towns has failed in the context 
of Bangalore as there was no provision 
for making them self-sufficient in ev- 
ery way. Even though they were situ- 
ated at a distance. Bangalore was still 
the place for employment, transport, 
water, entertainment, all the facilities. 
Unless their economic basis is diffe- 
rent, they will not be towns but sub- 
urbs. And that is what has happened 
now.'' 

When the idea of satellite townships 
failed to take off, the concept of the 
green belt was put into use to curb 
fmther spread of the city. A green belt 
area was duly marked off, and the 
authorities made it clear that no en- 
croachments would be tolerated in this 
zone. 

But this didn’t work cither. For, as 
the demand for land increased, unau- 
thorised constructions came up 
on the earmarked area and the gov- 
ernment, fearful of the bad publicity 
that would ensue if it, for instance, 
demolished a slum, tamely gave in to 
the pressure tactics of the populace. 
And with trees being felled in various 
other areas of the city, either to facili- 
tate road-broadening, or accommo- 
date new buildings. Bangalore seemed 
set to lose its sobriquet of the garden 
city. Of course, programmes were 
undertaken to plant more trees and 
provide for more foliage. But bad 
planning, poor rainfall, vandalism or 
inadequate care ensured that many of 
the saplings died and the situation 
remained as bad as ever. A replanting 
scheme is now underway and, with 
luck, it will work in most of the locali- 
ties. 

But the encroachments on the green 
belt continued. 

A comprehensive development plan 
for the city had, in fact, been commis- 
sioned in the early Eighties to ensure 
that such problems did not arise. Pre- 
pared by the Bangalore Development 
Authority (BDA), it focussed on the 
green belt, providing wedges in 
between so that the heart of the city 
was never too far away from the belt. 


This plan, however, is being thorough- 
ly overhauled at present, and a new 
one is expected to be ready in a couple 
of months. But, meanwhile, encroach- 
ments on the wedges continued and 
the concept of a green belt was, for all 
practical purposes, nullified. 

The revised plan will, however, in 
*all probability, regularise these en- 
croachments and totally remove the 
wedges, while the green belt could be 
pushed further back. 

Senior citizen Rau, however, has 
other ideas. According to him, it 


would be far better to define the limits 
of the green belt strictly rather than 
push it back further. The city should 
then develop beyond that area, with 
the green belt acting like a buffer. 

Even if the administration were to 
accept such suggestions and act on 
them, the pressure on land is unlikely 
to ease off. The only way to solve this 
problem — if only partially — is to stop 
allot .ing land for individual use. While 
the construction of high-rise buildings 
could be restricted within the city 
area, only apartment blocks should 
be allowed to come up in the outlying 
localities. Such a move would go 
against the grain of the average Ban- 


galorean, who aspires to live in a bun- 
galow, with a small piece of green 
attached. But, with the way the situa- 
tion is developing, the residents of the 
city will have to resign themselves to 
that. 

B ut whether they stay in spacious 
bungalows or cramped apart- 
ments, all the inhabitants of the city 
will have to live with the power 
crunch. For Bangalore, which needs 
over 13 million units per day of elec- 
tricity, gets only 10.5 million units. 


And in the summer months, when the 
rivers of the state dry up, the situation 
gets even worse. 

Not surprisingly then, load- 
shedding is a regular feature— though, 
the scenario is not as frightful as, say, 
in Calcutta. Residential areas experi- 
ence power cuts of an hour's length i 
every day, while industries are asked j 
not to operate their plants between 6-^ ; 
pm, when demand is at its maximum I 
Heavy industries, using above 5,000 ! 
kilowatts, have come under a 40 per 
cent power cut. 

In an effort to curtail consumption, 
the authorities increased the tariff 
rates, hoping to compensate tor the 



SUNDAY fr-iajwiuwy 1M1 


51 



SHUHERBUG 


CITYSCAPE 


shortfall somewhat. A unit of power 
now cost 75 paisa, and a slab system of 
rates was brought into effect, so the 
more electricity you used, the more 
you paid per unit. For example, if 
your consumption exceeded 250 units, 
you paid Rs 1 for each unit. 

The consumers were unhappy, com- 
plained, but continued to use the same 
amount of electricity, albeit at in- 
creased rates. 

Things weren’t always so bad. In 
1962, when the Sharavathi project was 
commissioned, power generation in- 
creased in Karnataka. Within a de- 
cade all the ten units of the project 
were generating electricity and 
together they supplied 890 megawatts 
to the entire state. Bangalore con- 
sumed 50 per cent of this. 

Attracted by the prospect of readily 
available — and cheap — power, indus- 


tries made an entry into Karnataka. 
The demand for electricity, therefore, 
soon shot up, while the supply re- 
mained at the same level. And the 
power crunch started in right earnest, 
as did the hikes in the power tariffs. 
From 1983 onwards, increases in the 
cost of electricity became a regular 
feature, and now the rates in Karnata- 
ka are comparable to those prevailing 
in the neighbouring states. 

D evelopment has, at times, deman- 
ded a higher price than just a few 
hours spent in the darkness. And, on 
occasion, the residents of the city have 
had to get together to safeguard their 
heritage from predatory “developers”. 
For instance, when a move was initi- 
ated to demolish the historic Attarah 
Kacheii (Taluk Office), which now 
houses the High Court. The brick- 
coloured building, built in Gothic style 
during the days of the British Raj, 
stands opposite the Vidhan Soudha 


and was in a sad state of disrepair. 
There was also a suggestion that it was 
unsafe, and should, therefore, be pul- 
led down. 

But no sooner was the proposal 
mooted — in 1983, soon after Ramak- 
rishna Hegde became chief minister — 
than the residents of the city were up 
in arms. As prominent citizens orga- 
nised to protest the move, even the 
Urban Arts Commission joined in the 
outcry, insisting that the structure was 
an important part of the heritage of 
the city and should be preserved, no 
matter what the cost. 

Under pressure, the Hegde govern- 
ment backtracked and put forth a 
compromise formula. According to 
this, the building would be demolished 
and an identical one constructed in its 
place. But the Bangaloreans rejected 
this proposal out of hand. 


In the end, the authorities had to 
bow down before public opinion. Fhe 
Attarah Kacheri remained in place, 
while a modern complex was con- 
structed behind it, to meet the in- 
creased demands for space of the 1 ligh 
Court. But care was taken to ensure 
that the new building was not hjghcr 
than the Kacheri and that the 
architectural splendour of the original 
building was in no way diminished. 

But the distinctive beauty of the city 
couldn’t always be safeguarded. Of 
the 250-odd lakes in existence in the 
city, for example, only a handful re- 
main. The rest are more cesspools 
than lakes today, with some lake-beds 
even converted into building sites. 

When :he citizenry began crying it- 
self hoarse about the rapid degenera- 
tion of the city’s aesthetics, the then 
chief minister, R.K. Hegde, consti- 
tuted a board which was to “bring 
back beauty to Bangalore”. But, after 
making a few perfunctory noises about 


tree-lined avenues, etc., the board dis- 
appeared into oblivion and nothing 
more was heard about making Banga- 
lore beautiful again. 

S ome moves were made by the 
Gundu Rao administration to im- 
prove the quality of life in the city. To 
improve the traffic congestion, for in- 
stance, it was suggested that a system 
of flyovers be set up, as also a ring 
railway, a diagonal railway system and 
a light railway. But successive govern- 
ments didn’t evince much interest in 
these proposals, and that, coupled 
with the lack of funds, spelt the end of 
the project. There was some talk of 
approaching the World Bank for 
funds, but nothing came of that either. 

The plan was revived recently, with 
suggestions to get loans from national 
and international banks to raise the 
requisite amount of money. Former 
railways minister George Fernandes 
came up with a rather neat idea on 
how to raise money for the rail system. 
The major industries in and around 
the city would contribute a mite, as 
would the state and central govern- 
ments, and the funds so raised would 
be used to set up the proposed railway 
^stem. But with the fall of the V.P. 
bingh government, that proposal 
lapsed. And it now remains to be seen 
if it will be revived in the near future. 

But with everything in the city going 
all awry, the administration couldn’t 
remain immune, either. And sure 
enough, commissioner of the Banga- 
lore City Corporation, S.R. Vijay, 
admits the city has grown too big to be 
ably administered by any one body. 
And the lack of coordination among 
such organisations as the Bangalore 
City Corporation, the Karnataka 
Electricity Board, the Bangalore Wa- 
ter Supply and Sewerage Board and 
the telephones department only 
makes matters worse. 

Complaints to this effect had led 
former chief minister Veerendra Patil 
to form a coordination committee. 
But, says Vijay, “For such coordina- 
tion, we should have administrative 
finesse and good funds. We have 
neither.” In his opinion, the best way 
to tackle the various problems of the 
city would be to divide it into several 
municipalities, which would make the 
task of administration easier. 

But it will be a while before the 
Edenic charm of Bangalore is res- 
tored— if ever. For the moment, at 
least, the city is best described as a 
paradise lost. • 

Gauri Umkeah/Bangalore 



It will be a While 
before the Edenic 
charm of 
Bangalore is 
restored— if ever 


SUNDAY 6-12 January 1991 



MANI SHANKAR AIYAR 

Cerebral communalism 

Taking a look at Girilal Jains columns 


"private places” and into the "public 
domain”. 

Giri, it seems, loathes "secular- 
ism” — which he defines as a polity 
where "man as animal usurps the 
place of man as spirit” (9/12/90). 

Secularism, says Giri, is the ersatz 
philosophy of chaps like me who are 
damned for our "alienness, rootless- 
ness and contempt for the land's uni- 
que cultural past" (9/12/90). Secular- 
ism, as Giri sees it, is a Nchru-Gandhi 
aberration, now in the throes of a 
well-de.served ngormortis. I'he “natu- 


I do not see the story of our civilisa- 
tion as a "battleground" in which the 
majority community has always been 
worsted. I see our civilisation as the 
"unique” example in world history of 
an unbroken civilisation that has sur- 
vived millennia of turbulence and dis- 
ruption — spiritual and intellectual as 
much as economic and political — only 
because of its utterly unique capacity 
to synthesise and move forward. Ours 
is the only major civilisation in the 
world to combine antiquity and con- 
tinuity with heterogeneity. 



The Bajrang Balls prowl the streets in search of Muslims 
upon whose chests they might leap to prove to Uma Bharti 
and her likes that they are not napunsaks 


Time was when I 
used to slink into 
our neighbour- 
hood library when 
no one was look- 
ing, slide shyly up 
to the librarian, 
and enquire in a 
strangled voice 
\shcther 1 might 
take a peek at The 
Organiser. She'd invariably look at me 
askance, obliging me to explain that it 
was not for me but for my readers that 
I was asking to take a quick glance. 
And then spend the next several mi- 
nutes in agonised embarrassment rub- 
bing the toes of my right fool against 
the calf of my lell leg, while waiting 
for her to fetch a bundle ii om the 
1 emote I racks, dump it on my tabic 
and stomp ofl disa.pprovingly, leaving 
me severely alone to discover what 
lip-smacking stuff the B.IP and the 
RSS (whose organ The Organiser is) 
had put out m then latest instalments 
to titillate the wilder fantasies of the 
Hindu lunatic fringe: Bajrang Balls 
prowling the stieets m search v)t Alis 
upon whose chests lhe> might leap to 
prove to Hma Bharti and other trend- 
setters of the fringe that they are no 
longer the "napunsaks" (impotents) 
she has repeatedly accused them of 
being. 

No longei. Nv)w 1 need no longer 
ask for Ilu Organiser in plain brown 
paper wrapping Now, I can walk 
straight up to the newsagents', m full 
view of the general public, and de- 
mand in the most stentorian of tones, 
my copy of Sunday Mail, where week 
after provocative week, right there on 
the editorial page, bang next to the 
lead article, the venerable Girilal .lam 
has taken to instructing us acolytes on 
the glories of the Hindu rashtra. The 
is.sue, as Gin lo\cs \o say as he lathers 
himself into a frenzied ecstasy at the 
prospect of "a body of disciplined 
cadres, which is available in the shape 
of the RSS" and "a political organisa- 
tion , which too is available in the 
Bharatiya Janata rarty" leading us to 
a "Hindu government in New Delhi" 
(Sunday Mail, 9/12/90) — is out of the 


ral inheritors” of our country, says he 
(4/1 1/90), are not, as 1 had thought, all 
those who live in this land whatever 
their religion, or, indeed, lack of it— 
but the "Hindus" who “for the first 
time m a thousand ye.irs got in 1947 an 
opportunity to resolve the civilisation- 
al issue". And what, pray, is the "civi- 
lisat onal issue"? The casus belli as 
Giri himself "brusquely” puts it is that 
"India has been a battleground be- 
tween two civilisi’tions — Hindu and 
Islamic — for well over a thousand 
♦ears'- (2/12/90). 

j Battleground? The only reason 1 
hai'e no "contempt” at all but only 
pTide in our unique cultural past is that 


I see a civilisation whose majoritv 
religion — until, that is, the 
thekedars of the VHP/BJP and their 
munshis, like Girilal Jain, hijacked 
it—had the incredible genius to take 
4,5(K) years (at least) to evolve from 
the Vedas to the Vedanta. For that is ! 
how long it look from the first recita- ; 
tion of the opening lines of the Rig ■ 
Veda in the lost mists of antiquil\ to . 
Adi Shankaracharya's delineation of ' 
the Advaita in the ninth centurx AO j 
The Hindu religion, alone, perhaps. . 
among the major religions of the 
world, had the strength and self- 
confidence to know that Truth is not 
revealed in an instant or in a flash but 


53 




evolves through a long process of 
absorption, assimilation and synthesis. 
Thus it is that our civilisation has 
synthesised all that is found of excell- 
ence, whatever the ethnic or racial 
source it came from — the Dravidians, 
the Greeks, the Scythians, the Huns, 
the Persians, the Turks, the Arabs, 
the Mongols, whoever — and from 
whatever religion new thought and 
new ethical values emanated — be it 
Buddhism or Jainism (both of which 
Giri loves to club with Hinduism, 
although Gautam the Buddha and 
Mahavir were so apalled at the state of 
Hindu society, the Flindu religion and 
the Hindu polity in the sixth century 
BC that they despaired of reforming 
Hinduism and launched altogether 
new religions of their own), Christian- 
ity and Judaism in the southern 
reaches of peninsular India for close 
on 2,(KK) years, and Islam for all of a 
millenium. 

The Bhakti Movement, which res- 
cued Hinduism from the clutches of an 
exclusivist Brahminical priesthood, 
was the direct outcome of the impact 
of the Islamic concept of musa- 
qwwat — equality or fraternity — upon 
our fundamentally unequal and varna- 
cum-karma-ridden thought processes. 
The qawwalis of the dargahs derived 
from the bhajans of the temples. Hin- 
dawi, the source from which our 
national language has grown, had its 
origins in the fertile quill of Amir 
Khusro as he composed his masterly 
verses in the precincts of the 
mausoleum which houses the mortal 
remains of Hazrat Nizamuddin. 

In Advani’s home province of Sind, 
the Sufis left behind by Mohammad- 
bin-Qassim spread the message of 
Islam to willing voluntary acceptance 
for all of 20() years before Mahmud of 
Ghazni ever infiltrated the Khyber 
Pass. The Babar whom Giri’s friends 
in the VHP love to excoriate defeated 
not a Hindu king at the first Battle of 
Panipat but Ibrahim Lodhi And while 
Aurangzeb might deserve some of the 
invective hurled at him by Sadhvi 
Rithambra, Dara Shikoh, let it be re- 
membered, was his blood brother, 
ergo, also one of the "Babar ki aulad" 
and Gandhi ji, who Giri rightly says 
could never be accused of “indulging 
in a public relations gimmick or de- 
magoguery intended to fool the pub- 
lic” (4/11/90) readily confessed to hav- 
ing understood the Bhagvad Gita bet- 
ter after discovering the Sermon on 
the Mount, that is, to having become a 
better Hindu by becoming a better 
Christian. 



T here is nothing ‘unique’ to our his- 
tory being viewed only as a string 
of conflicts, a succession of wars, a 
pendulum oscillating between victory 
and defeat as one feuplal fought 
another and one king trampled on 
another’s domain. That is the history 
of all human kind all over the world. 
What makes our civilisation ‘unique’ is 
the capacity which the Hindu main- 
stream has shown to synthesise other 
influences. Remarkably, many of the 
greatest virtues of our civilisation — 
ahirma (non-violence), karuna (com 
passion), sahanshilta (tolerance), 
samaanyata (equality)-— owe at least 
as much to non-Hindu sources 
(Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Christ- 
ianity) as they do to the Vedas, the 
Puranas and the Upanishads. For we 
are the legatees of an Indian civilisa- 
tion and not, as Giri and VHP/BJP 
friends would have it, a civilisation to 
which Hinduism alone has made a 
worthwhile contribution. 

For all his quoting of Ira M. Lapidus 
(18/11/90) and Ronald Inden (9/12/ 
90) — ever heard of them? — and not- 
withstanding his contempt (2/12/90) 
for those who have taken to “the En- 
glish language. Western ideas, ideals, 
dress and eating habits” and (horror of 
horrors) are “genuinely pro- 
Muslim... because they find high Isla- 
mic culture and the ornate Urdu lan- 


guage attractive” (aren’t they?), Giril- 
al Jain fails to grasp the elementary 
truth that you don’t have to be a Hin- 
du to be an Indian and that there are 
crores of Indians who are integral to 
our civilisation without professing the 
Hindu faith. What is to become of 
them and their contribution to the In- 
dian heritage if they are to be 
swamped by the “roaring Ganga of 
Hindu emotion” (2 1/10/90) released by 
the Advani rath yatra to compel the 
minorities“ to come to terms with Hin- 
du civilisation in a predominantly Hin- 
du India” (9/12/90)? 

The confusion between ‘Hindu’ and 
‘India’ leads Giri to an incredible 
non-sequitor. Nehru’s Discov- 
ery Of India, he says, “bears testi- 
mony to an intense longing for roots” 
which, according to Giri, Nehru 
“finally failed to find”. Because he 
treated ‘secular’ nationalism and ‘Hin-' 
du’ nationalism “as if they were clear 
opposites”. (18/11/90). In fact, the 
Discovery Of India is a voyage, a 
quest which culminates in the discov- 
ery of the roots of our civilisation in 
the unique Indian tradition of synth- 
esis, the synthesis of all the religions 
and cultures of our land, not in just 
one of its religions where Giri, in de- 
fiance of history, culture and truth, 
wishes to locate our roots. That is why 
it is not entirely coincidental that 
Nehru should, at the very outset of his 


54 


8UII0AV 6-12 JwHiary 1981 








. ..Sj 




.*/. 

.'- » v'l 




book, pay the highe^^t tribute for the 
formulation ot this view of our civilisa- 
tion to (MIC who was indubitably an 
Indian although - equally mdubit- 
ab'y — not a Hindu Maulana Abul 
Kalam Azad 

The curious tiling about the Adva- 
nis and the (iinlal .buns is that their 
world-view is neither eclectically Hin- 
du or compositely Indian, but 
monocentnc in the middle- eastern 
mould So. I am not at all surprised 
that Gm should find justification in 
the aforementioned I.apidus' A His- 
torv Of Ishimii Stftirfics fc'r his equa- 
tion of Indian uvili'.aiion with Hindu 
civilisation I le approvingly quotes Ms 
Lapidus as saying “Islam still plays a 
substantial M>le in the identity of Arab 
peoples” and proceeds from that to his 
triumphal conclusion “By the logic of 
the Arab example, Indian nationalism 
has to be Hindu nationalism in effect” 
(18/11/90). Now why our civilisation 
should follow the example of any 
other beats me, especially as the cru- 
cial difference is that whereas almost 
100 per cent of the Arab people (bar 
the odd Copt in Figypt or the (occasion- 
al Armenian in Iraq) are Muslims, we 
are an amazing falimp.set of Hindus, 
the second largest Islamic grouping in 
the world, almost all the world’s Sikhs 
(outside Southall, that is!), with nearly 
cent per cent Christians in two states 
(Mizoram and Nagaland), not to men- 


tion the Parsis, the Jews, the Donyi- 
Poloists of Arunachal Pradesh and the 
red-blooded atheists of the Periyar 
tradition in lamil Nadu and the im- 
ported ‘opium-of-the-masses’ variety 
of Jyoti Basu and E.M.S. Namboodir- 
ipad. What is to become of all these 
flowers of the Indian bouquet if only 
the marigold is to get the Advani/ 
Singhal/ Girilal Citation of Patriotism 
and Sound Moral Character? 


F rom time to time, Girilal Jain con- 
nects to the truth as when he says 
Hinduism “revels in plurality” (18/11/ 
90) or that the “UP Muslims played a 
leading role in forcing Partition and 
they have been its worst victims” (14/ 
10/90). But where he goes dreadfully 
wrong is in assuming that the BJP’s 
assault on Ayodhya (“A desperate 
and a noble effort to salvage India” — 
14/10/90) is at all possible in such a 
way “that they do not provoke, but 
also they do not allow others to pro- 
voke Hindu-Muslim clashes” (23/9/ 
90). How can there not be provocation 
when Giri himself proclaims that the 
“re-Hinduisation of the country’s poli- 
tical domain has begun” (9/12/90)? 
Are the minorities to remain sanguine 
ait the prospect that “with Advani in 
the ascendent,” (23/12/90) the Hindus 
now “possess an elite capable of ris- 
ing to the occasion” (2/12/90)7 


Giri might pretend that “the Hindu 
fight is not at all with the Muslim ” but 
try teaching that to a Muslim contem- 
plating the charred remains of what 
was once his home — and what was 
once his family — in Colonelgan j or Bi- 
jnor, Aligarh or Hyderabad, Ahmeda- 
bad or Chennapatna. When a CPI(M) 
delegation to Aligarh has this to say of 
the riots there: “Casualties are there 
on both sides but the brunt has been 
borne by the minorities” (Sunday, 
23/12/80, page 32). I do not know 
whether it is stupid or cruel to read 
our foremost political commentator 
saying: “Hindu catholicity contrasts 
then, as it does today, with Muslim 
orthodoxy and single-mindedness” 
(14/10/90). And when Giri asserts “if 
Hindu society has not gone berserk, it 
is a remarkable tribute to its inner 
strength and resilience” (14/10/90), 1 
want to walk with him past the 
smouldering remnants of hundreds of 
jhuggi-jhonpries and ask him, “What, 
if you please, is your definition of 
berserk?” 

Giri is welcome to regard Advani’s 
rath yatra as “a stroke of genius” 
(21/10/90) but not, I submit one that is 
calculated to secure his objec- 
tive:“(The) Muslims have to be per- 
suaded (emphasis mine) to give up 
their claims and allow the proposed 
Ram temple to be 
built” (14/10/90). You cannot “per- 
suade” by bullying, taunting, hector- 
ing and posturing. You can only “per- 
suade” by assuring honour, respect 
and equality to our fellow citizens, the 
Muslims of India. The mandirlmasjid 
dispute (as undiluted communalists 
Uma Bharti clearly understand but 
cerebral communalists like Girilal Jain 
don’t) is not about brick and mortar 
but about vengeance on our Islamic 
heritage and the place of minorities in 
the schema of our modern nation- 
hood. 

Giri recalls the “similar situation in 
the Thirties” when the “Germans 
sought to escape into a make-belief 
world of anti-Semitism” (14/10/90). 
The parallel is exact. But where Giri 
casts the secular Indian in ihe role of 
the Nazi Aryan, someone will have to 
teach Giri (or, indeed, “persuade” 
him) to recognise that it is the Advani 
Aryan gang he so admires who are 
escaping into a make-belief world of 
Muslim-baiting in the totally mistaken 
belief that the resurgence of Hinduism 
lies in the denigration of Islam.® 


The views expresse<j in these column are those of its 
author and do not purport to constitute an official 
statement of the Congress Parly 's position 


SUNDAYS 19 lArimrviqo^ 


55 





UPDATE 


Getting religion 

Salman Rushdie embraces Islam — but the Iranians refuse to 

embrace him 



F aith, they say, can move 
mountains. On a cold 
Christmas eve in London, it 
moved Salman Rushdie, be- 
leaguered author of the 
allegedly blasphemous novel, The 
Satanic Verses. The confirmed non- 
believer, who had at one time proc- 
laimed that he wanted to “write a 
more critical book” about Islam, not- 
withstanding the fact that Iranian | 
leader Ayatollah Khomeini had asked 1 
for his execution on the grounds that 
he had defamed the Prophet, now de- 
clared his faith in the same Prophet 
and proclaimed that there was no God 
but Allah. Rushdie, who'd made a 
prestige issue of ensuring the publica- 
tion of the paperback edition of the 
Verses, undertook not to have it 
printed, not to permit any further 
translations and to work for the cause 
of Islam. 

The sudden change of tone followed 
the author's meeting with six Islamic 
scholars, to whom he explained his 
real intentions behind writing those 
“offensive” sections in his book. They 
were, explained Rushdie, an express- 
ion of the ruination of a man (Gibreel) 
following the loss of faith (see exclu- 
sive interview that follows) and were, 
therefore, a vindication of Islam 
rather than defamatory to Prophet 
Mohammad. 

The scholars, according to Rushdie, 
bought his explanation, and declared 
at the end of the meeting that they 
wanted to “reclaim” him And Sal- 
man, for his part, made a declaration 
of faith, in a signed statement released 
by the Islamic Society for the Promo- 
tion of Religious Tolerance in the Un- 
ited Kingdom. The move was im- 
mediately hailed as a conversion to 
Islam, and Dr Hesham el Essawi, 
head of the society, who had arranged 
the meeting, announced that Rushdie 
was now sorry for what he had done 
and accepted the teachings of the 
Prophet. Essawi dashed off a telex to 
Tehran almost immediately asking for 
the fatwa to be rescinded. 

The reply arrived two days later. A 
firm “No” from Iranian President 


Khameini. The death sentence stood, 
said the Iranian leader, and would "re- 
main unchanged even if Rushdie re- 
pents and becomes the most pious 
man of his time”. 

The author was, however, unfazcd 
by the Iranian intransigence. And re- 
ports have it that he will fly off to 
Cairo in the early weeks of 1991 to 
meet leading Muslim scholars of that 
country to convince them of his case, 
on the invitation of Dr Muhammad 
Mahgoub, the Egyptian minister of 
Islamic affairs. The proposed visit has 
the approval of President Hosni 
Mubarak, and has bees welcomed by 
the spiritual head of the Sunni Mus- 
lims, Grand Sheikh Gad El-Hak of 
Cairo's Al-Azhar religious centre. 

The Muslim world seems split on^ 
broadly Sunni-Shia lines on the issue ' 
of Salman Rushdie, and a victory 
Al-Azhar, considered to be one of the? 
highest centres of Islamic learning 
the Sunnis, will be regarded as a major 


achievement for Salman and a total 
snub to the Shia rulers of Iran. 

B ut it was Dr Essawi, regarded as 
one of the more moderate voices 
in the world of Islam, who set the ball 
rolling. Initially the plump dentist had 
condemned the book as offensive and 
as something that should never have 
been written. Over the last two years 
he had been pressuring Viking/Pen- 
guin to carry a little “health-warning” 
in the book that it may be injurious to 
Muslim sentiment. (Rushdie has since 
agreed to carry this statement, which 
will be featured in all future publica- 
tions of the Verses.) 

Essawi, however, began to have 
second thoughts when he saw Rush- 
die's interview on television on the 
South Bank show. He says: “I felt 
sorry for the man. He has suffered 
greatly. His marriage has broken up. 
He is separated from his only son and 
he keeps saying he had no intention to 


56 


SUNDAY 6»12 January 1991 






offend. I then wondered if Muslims 
had done an injustice. Was he paying 
too high a price? 1 felt I had to talk to 
him and see what he has to say.” 

A couple of months ago, the two 
men began talking. According to 
Essawi. initially Rushdie was very cau- 
tious and the pair spent a lot of time 
discussing Islam and the book. The 
doctor then asked the author to meet 
various Islamic scholars and explain 



It was Dr Essawi (above) who 
initiated the move to get 
Salman Rushdie (left) 
pardoned, arranging a 
meeting with various Islamic 
scholars in London 


his position to them. If they accepted 
his defence, he would be cleared and 
forgiven 

The meeting was arranged. “The 
atmosphere was so warm and 
touching," recounts Essawi. “They 
understood what Rushdie was trying 
to say, they wanted to ‘reclaim’ him." 

After this victory, Essawi appealed 
to Iran to lift the sentence imposed by 
Ayatollah Khomeini “without trial 
and justification’ , but to no avail. 
“However,” says Essawi, “other Mus- 
lim countries are beginning to under- 
stand and let us hope that some com- 
promise can be arrived at soon. It has 
all gone on far too long. The man has 
said he is sorry, he has accepted Islam. 
Some gesture from the Muslims is now 
due. He has suffered enough.” 

Declares Essawi, who hates being 
described as a “moderate” or “liberal” 
Muslim, “What I am doing is strictly 
Islamic. Let there be no doubt about 
that.” 

SUNDAY 6—12 January 1991 


M uslim organisations in Britain, 
however, were quick to de- 
nounce Rushdie’s “conversion” as a 
“farce” and “an attempt to bail out the 
unrepentent author of the offensive 
book”. At a press conference held at 
the London Central Mosque, the UK 
Action Committee on Islamic Affairs 
reiterated its demand to the publishers 
Viking/Penguin that the Verses be 
pulped and withdrawn, that no further 
translations or publication take place, 
that an apology be made to the follow- 
ers of Islam and that damages be paid 
to an agreed charity. The committee, 
formed in 1988 immediately after the 
publication of the book, however, dis- 
tanced itself from the Iranian fatwa 
and pledged to abide by British law. 

Said Sher Azam, president of the 
Bradford Council of Mosques: “If 
there is genuine repenlence then some 
sort of action must follow. Rushdie 
has not withdrawn the hardback which 
remains in circulation at public read- 
ing rooms and homes. The point is not 
that he has converted. That is a per- 
sonal issue. Our objection is to the 
book, not to the author. As long as it 
remains in circulation it is an offence 
to Islam and our campaign will con- 
tinue till it is removed.” 

Dr Syed Pasha, head of the Union 
of Muslim Organisations in Britain, 
agreed* “This conversion is a joke. A 
man can’t rob a person of pounds 
10,000, then come the next day and 
say that he wants to embrace Islam, 
and all the while he keeps enjoying the 
money. This is not Islam. If he wants 
to repent, Rushdie will have to do a 
very simple thing: withdraw The Sata- 
nic Verses from publication. There is 
only one solution to this issue.” 

The Action Committee also dis- 
puted Rushdie’s version of the meet- 
ing with the Islamic scholars in Lon- 
don. Said Sher Azam: “U is unfortun- 
ate that Rushdie should lie the very 
next day he converts to Islam. The 
scholars have never said that the book 
is not offensive. Sheikh Gamal Man- 
na, of the Central Mosque, who 
attended the meeting, gave in writing 
that nothing like this happened.” 

The Bradford Council of Mosques, 
the nerve-centre of the campaign 
against the author, a!so got into action 
issuing a statement that said: “By put- 
ting a stop to the paperback edition 
Mr Rushdie has acknowledged the 
blasphemous nature of The Satanic 
Verses and the rightfulness of the Mus- 
lim campaign. Therefore, Mr Rushdie 
should go all the way to put a total 
stop to this offensive book.” 


Jr , ^ . 


The council also dashed off a letter 
to the Egyptian Ambassador in Lon- 
don, expressing regret that Dr 
Mahgoub had taken part in the meet- 
ing with Rushdie and endorsed the 
author’s view that his book was not 
offensive to Islam. Referring to the 
stand of the Organisation of Islamic 
Conference (OIC) on the matter, the 
council pointed out that the book had 
been condemned by Muslims the 
world over, and urged an immediate 
meeting to clarify doubts. 

The Bradford lobby, mainly com- 
prising Muslims from the sub- 
continent, clearly finds it unacceptable 
that the Egyptians should be taking 
the lead in getting Rushdie off the 
hook, with Dr Essawi, the Egyptian- 
born Islamic scholar, leading the 
effort. 

R ushdie's conversion did not, 
however, go down too well with 
many of the author’s friends and the 
Hampstead intellectual circuit. Play- 
wright Arnold Wesker, a leading 
member of the Salman Rushdie De- 
fence Committee, was the first to go 
public with his feelings, saying: “This 
is outrageous, a victory for religious 
terrorists.” 

Frances dc Souza, chairperson of 
the committee, maintained that the 
matter was personal, and that they 
would continue to fight for his cause. 
“No one can be sentenced to death for 
expressing his views in a democratic 
set-up,” she said. “He is fully entitled 
to the state’s protection.” 

And yes, Rushdie still repiains in 
hiding, appearing in public only once 
to sign copies of Haroun And The Sea 
Of Stories at a central London book- 
shop. He has given two television in- 
terviews and spoken to two British 
papers. And immediately after the 
death sentence was re-confirmed by 
Iran he gave a 15-minute interview to 
the British Broadcasting Service's 
(BBC) Persian Service, and granted 
his first-ever interview to an Indian 
magazine, speaking to Sunday from 
hiding. 

But the author is hopeful of a re- 
prieve if the 1 ,000-year-old Al-Azhar 
University in Cairo rules in his favour. 
If, for instance. Sheikh Tantwai of the 
institute announces that Rushdie can- 
not be held accountable for the sins he 
committed before he became a Mus- 
lim, the Iranian fatwa may be chal- 
lenged. 

And the Sunnis might save their 
own from Shia wrath. • 

Shnbani Basu/London 

57 



knows, 
IVe suffered” 

Salman Rushdie’s first-ever interview to an 
Indian magazine since he went into hiding 


He's already spent 22 months in hid- 
ing. And all through that period va- 
rious Indian publications have been 
carrying articles on the curious affair of 
Salman Rushdie, condemned to death 
by the Iranian cleric. Ayatollah 
Khomeini, for his 'blasphemous' 
hook. The Satanic Verses. But while 
others have contented themselves by 
reproducing stuff that has already 
appeared in the foreign media, Sun- 
day has always held out for its own 
stories. 

In September 1 988, Rushdie spoke 
to Sunday in a now-famous interview, 
in which he declared that books 
couldn't cause riots. Since then, events 
have made Salman considerably wiser. 

Now in the midst of working out a 
compromise which could result in his 
emergence from hiding, Rushdie spoke 
to Sunday again, granting an exclusive 
interview to Shrabani Basu in Lon- 
don — his first-ever to an Indian maga- 
zine. 

Sunday: You once told this magazine 
that a book can’t cause riots. How do 
you feel about it now? 

Salman Rushdie: We\e all learnt a lot 
since then (laughs). And we’ve paid 
for our mistakes. I appeal to all Mus- 
lims and governments everywhere to 
join the process of healing we have 
begun. Islam is a tolerant religion. 
Let’s change the animosity and bitter- 
ness to a language of love, l^t good- 
will change ill-will and put an end to 
the affair of The Satanic Verses. 

Q: Why have you embraced Islam 
now? 

A: I’ve been doing a lot of rethinking 
in the last few months and I wanted to 
clarify certain thoughts. The point is 
that I’ve been born a Muslim. I’m 
basically a secularist. This is important 
in the Indian context, specially be- 
cause you are a minority community 
there. Then again, we were bf ought 
up in a cosmopolitan place like Bom- 
bay and not as Muslims as such. 

50 


However, I have always studied 
Islam. My first book used Sufi myths. 
I have always dealt with ideas of reli- 
gious faith, and conflict between the 
material and spiritual worl^. I have 
been following my own past towards 
an understanding of religious faith. 
That journey is not over yet. The 
point of the journey is that now I can 
affirm the two basic tenets of Islam — 
oneness of God and the prophecy of 
the Prophet. 

I used to always say. The Satanic 
Verses affair was a family quarrel. 
Now, I am pleased to say, I am at last 
inside the family and not outside it. 

Q: But from being a non-believer you 
are now saying that *Hhere is only one 
God and that is Allah”? 

A; This is not a conversion. This is 
simply a return to the family. Now 
that 1 am inside the family, Muslims 
can talk to Muslims and sort out the 
problem that has arisen mainly out of 
tragic misunderstanding of the novel. I 
still remain a secular person™ these 
principles are deeply important to me. 

Q: Dr Hesham el Essawi (head of the 
Islamic Society for the Promotion of 
Religious Tolerance in the United 
Kingdom) said you’d read the wrong 



books (on Islam) in Cambridge. Have 
you been reading the Koran and study- 
ing Islam in the past 22 months? 

A: (Laughs) I know how Lssawi feels 
about me. But yes, I have been read- 
ing a lot. I have a Koran with me, 
which I read. I may not be a very good 
Muslim, but at least now I can say that 
1 am a Muslim. 

Q: How did the meeting with the Isla- 
mic scholars go? 

A: It was very emotional. When I met 
Essawi he said anyone who has com- 
mitted an offence against Islam should 
sit down with the Islamic scholars and 
explain himself. That is the way it is 










I »»*•■ 

„u«ic 

^ ..»». “•* “•" 



I.. « ■^‘ \ 

.f I 

1 

-:=:r:::~~ — 1 
Irrr:-.-- 1 

0-4* \ 

•-.:7T 

J 

*f j, AAn^^ . 

JJS - — — 

*i have been following my own past 
towards an understanding of 
religious faith. The point of the 
Journey Is that now I can affirm the 
two basic tenets of Islam— oneness 
of God and the prophecy of 
the Prophet” 


done in Islam. It they accept your 
sincerity, then the problem is re- 
solved. Many of my radical opponents 
said I would not be able to face the 
religious leaders. But I did it. I ex- 
plained to them that I had not meant 
to do any harm, that I have always 
been an ally of Islam. I have sup- 
ported Muslims everywhere, whether 
in Kashmir, Palestine or Britain. I 
have frequently written and broadcast 
against any form of diseriminaticm. At 
the end of the discussion they said 
they wanted to reclaim me for them- 
selves and 1 .said I wanted to reclaim 
them as well. It was very touching. 

I think it’s the first positive step 





“i did underestimate 
theMusiim 
sentiment. But the 
point is, I thought 
peopie wouid have 
known me, and 
not thought I 
wouid be trying 
to harm and 
insult the faith. 

Well, they didn’t” 


after two years of trouble. Many Mus- 
lim countries are now ready to listen. 
After all, we’ve come through a long 
period. My safety depends on the 
goodwill of the Muslim community. 
After all they know me from a long 
time ago, they know what son of per- 
son I was. They should be best placed 
to understand that I am not their 
enemy. 

1 appeal to Indian Muslims to 
understand my feelings. Enough has 
been done. Let’s solve this problem 
now. 

Q: In your declaration before the scho- 
lars you have distanced yourself from 
the allegedly offensive portions in the 
Verses, Are you going back on what 
you said in the bewk? 

A: No, that’s not the point. Anybody 
who reads a novel knows that every 
point of view expressed in the book is 
not necessarily the point of view of the 
author. In fact, these “offensive” por- 
tions are exactly about a man who is 
losing his faith. In this section he is 
faced with dream characters because 
of his loss of faith and confusion. The 
“insults” are portraits of his disin- 
tegration and are referred to in the 
novel as punishments and retribu- 
tions. Nowhere are they the points of 
view of the author. Read this way, this 
is actually my greatest assertion of 
faith in Islam, since GibreePs assaults 


on religion are representative of a pro- 
cess of ruination, caused by loss of 
faith. 

1 think I’ve managed to explain this 
to the scholars. And that’s a major 
part of the healing process , when they 
realise that no insult was intended. 
Many Muslims will accept my sincer- 
ity. It looks like an understanding can 
soon be reached. 

Q: Are you hopeful of being a free man 
soon? 

A: Yes... I’m hoping Tomorrow if I 
could step out, the first thing I’d do is 
take a plane to Bombay. 

Q: Have you been missing the sub- 
continent a lot? 

A: I think one of the worst things in 
these last two years was the pain of 
separation and the feeling of being 
rejected by my own people. India is an 
essential part of me. 1 have many 
friends in Bombay. I was touched to 
see the warm reception that Haroun 
got. I want to tell Muslims in India 
once again that I never intended to 
offend, that I’m sorry I hurt them and 
that it's time we put the past behind 
us. Enough has been done in the last 
two years. Most Muslims want peace 
and I am not an enemy of theirs. 

Q; How do you feel about the rising 
communalism in India? 

A: It’s very painful to sit here and 
watch the country being torn apart by 
communal frenzy. Secularism is so im- 
portant for India. It’s the very bedrock 
of its democracy. It's me atmosphere 
we were all brought up in. From such 
a distance I can see secularism wither- 
ing. And it hurts. 

Q: Your film Riddle Of Midnight where 
you talked about the rise of Hindu 
fundamentalism and of separatism in 
Kashmir seems to be coming true now. 

A: Yes, at that time (1987) everyone 
was very critical of me, said that I’d 
been too negative, and portrayed a 
one-sided picture. Now we can see 
what’s happening to the country. 

In fact, even when I wrote Midr 
nighfs Children some people said that 
the end was too pessimistic. Now it 
seems to me, I was too optimistic. 

Q: You’ve paid a heavy price for your 
book. Do you have any regrets about 
having written it? Do you feel you mis- 
calculated? } 

A: I did underestimate the Muslim 
sentiment. But the point is, 1 thought 
people would have known me, and not 
thought I would be trying to harm and 
insult the faith. Well, they didn’t and 
God knows. I’ve suffered for it. • 



The greying 
of Advani 

The BJP president is now the leader 
of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha 


F or most politicians, it would 
have meant the fulfilment of 
a long-cherished dream. 
But when Lai Krishna 
Advani was appointed lead- 
er of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, 
it seemed just another milestone in the 
long political career of this disting- 
uished parliamentarian. A victory for 
the party he leads — the Bharatiya 
Janata Party (BJP)— rather than a 
personal achievement. In Advani’s 
own words, “It is a matter of satisfac- 
tion that the BJP should be recognised 
as the principal opposition party in the 
Lok Sabha. Developments have 
taken place which have enhanced the 
credibility of the party.” 

L.K. Advani was appointed to the 
prestigious post after the Lok Sabha 
Speaker, Rabi Ray, turned down the 
request of former Prime Minister Ra- 
jiv Gandhi to allow him to continue as 
leader of the Opposition. Though Ra- 
jiv leads a 192 member-strong Con- 
gress party in the House, the Speaker 
pointed out that before the Chandra 
Shekhar ministry was sworn in, the 
Congress chief had given a letter to 
President R. Venkataraman .stating 
that his party would extend “uncon- 
ditional support” to the new Janata 
Dal(S). And, it is because of the Con- 
gress(I)’s decision of playing the role 
of a supportive party that the Speaker 
chose to invite L.K. Advani — leader 
of the 85-member BJP group in the 
House — to head the Opposition in 
the Lok Sabha. 

Referring to the fight put up by the 
Congress! I) for the coveted post, 
Advani said that it is proof “of the 
embarrassment that ihe party is facing 
over supporting a government which 
they cannot control very much but 
whose sins they would have to bear”. 

In fact, the position of the Congres- 
s(l) today closely resembles that of the 
BJP during the tenure of V.P. Singh, 


when the party, despite the crucial 
support it extended to the regime, 
only had a marginal say in the affairs 
of governance. Advani feels that the 
Congress(I) too can hardly influence 
decision-making of the present gov- 
ernment because “Chandra Shekhar 
was exercising his position in a manner 
to convey to the people that he is no j 
one’s man”. ; 

Having been appointed leader of | 
the Opposition would naturally give ; 
Advani the status of a C’abinet minis- 
ter, but more important, certain par- 
liamentary privileges which, for an 
year, had been the prerogative of Ra- 
jiv Gandhi. Advani’s speeches in the 
Lok Sabha, for instance, would not be 
restricted by any time frame — a pri- 
vilege he is expected to exploit to the j 
hilt to hammer home the Hindu cause. 

But the post has its attendant prob- 
lems as well. As leader of the Opposi- 
tion, the BJP president will un- 
doubtedly face trying moments trying 
to control his partymen. Especially, 
BJP hardliners like Madan Lai Khur- 
ana, Uma Bharti and Kalka Das. 
Khurana, in particular, has been ex- 
tremely vociferous in his outbursts. A 
moderate in comparison, Advani will 
have to ensure that things do not go 
out of hand. 

T hough the Indian Parliament is 
based on the British model, the 
fact that we have a multi-party system 
unlike the English two-party one, 
somewhat reduces the role of the lead- 
er of the Opposition. In fact, many 
times in the past, the Lok Sabha had 
to do without a leader of the Opposi- 
tion. As Advani himself recalled, right 
from 1947 to 1969, the post had re- 
mained vacant and yet the Lok Sabha 
functioned normally. In 1969, when 
the Congress split the Congress(O) 
managed a strength of just 60 mem- 
bers, Dr Ram Subagh Singh was 





When Lai Krishna Advani was 
appointed leader of the 
Opposition in the Lok Sabha, 
it seemed just another 
milestone in the long political 
career of this distinguished 
parliamentarian. A victory for 
the party he leads rather than a 
personal achievement 

appointed Opposition leader of the 
House. The second time the Lok 
Sabha had a leader of the Opposition 
was in 1977 when the Janata Party 
came to power: the Congress(I)’s 
Y.B. Chavan and C.M. Stephen held 
the prestigious position for different 
periods. 

Will Advani now move into the .spa- 
cious bungalow occupied by Rajiv 
Gandhi as leader of the Opposition? 
The BJP president clarified that 
though he will enjoy several perks and 
benefits including the service of a spe- 
cial staff, he will not be dislodging 


60 


SUNDAY 6— 12 January 1991 





Honour denied 

The BBC rejects L.K. AdvanVs nomination for the 
"Mm of the Year” award 



Rajiv Gandhi. Being the former Prime 
Minister of India and also because of 
security reasons, Rajiv was allotted 
the house at Janpath, and he will con- 
tinue to stay there along with his fami- 
ly. Advani also said that though a 
change of leadership within the BJP 
looks imminent, he would retain his 
position as leader of the Opposition. 
The possibility, he clarified, was that 
"‘the new president of the party would 
not be a member of Parliament at all". 

Already, Advani feels, the Congres- 
s(I) has “realised with a sense of .shock 
that the BJP now occupies the third 
position in Indian politics". Certainly, 
not a mean achievement for a party 
which till a few years back had very 
little following and was seen as just 
another fundamentalist outfit. As 
Advani maintains: ‘T differ with those 
who think India should be declared a 
Hindu rashtra. Hindu rashtra is not a 
goal or an objective to be achieved. I 
think it has been there all along.*' •. 
RNuSaHn/NmwDelM 


M ulticulturalism in Britain is 
evidently showing signs of 
fatigue. First, the Rushdie affair 
made sure that the Muslims were 
up in arms against the establish- 
ment accusing the government of 
hypocricy and double standards. 
Now, it’s the Hindus declaring war 
on the BBC. Reason: Bharatiya 
Janata Party (BJP) leader, L.K. 
Advani was denied being declared 
the “Man of the Year” on BBC 
Radio Four’s Today programme on 
the grounds that the votes were 
rigged. 

The Times newspaper, which 
carried the story, said that the BBC 
had rejected Advani's nomination 
because it believed the votes were 
part of an “orchestrated cam- 
paign”. So what, said the editorials 
of three leading Tory newspapers. 
The votes were always part of a 
well-designed campaign. Former 
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 
had won the “Woman of the Year” 
award seven times in a row because 
of a consistent campaign by the 
Conservative Party. So why deny it 
to an ethnic minority group? TTie 
BBC press office battled stoically 
with accustions of racism and dou- 
ble standards but stuck to their 
stand that the votes were rigged. 

BBC Radio Four, which holds 
the contest, invites votes for the 
“Man and Woman of the Year” 
from its listeners. Though Advani 
won the largest number of votes, 
he was disqualified on the grounds 
that many of the letters voting for 
Advani contained identical typed 
phrases, were enclosed in similar 
envelopes posted in Bradford and 
Birmingham, and were signed by 
groups of people rather than indi- 
viduals. 

Ironically, Margaret Thatcher 
won the award this year as well 
making it her eighth victory on 
Radio Four. Michael Heseltine, 
former defence secretary, who had 
challenged Thatcher’s leadership 
grabbed the “Man of the Year” 
award, after Advani stood disqual- 
ified. 

Hindu organisations were quick 


to rally in protest. Most vehement 
of them was the Viswa Hindu 
Parishad (VHP) whose president 
urged the BBC to declare Advani 
the rightful winner immediately. 
“The BBC will be guilty of racism if 
it does not declare Mr Advani the 
rightful winner,” Lai Chand Punj, 
president of the VHP (UK) told 
Sunday. 

Punj said he had learnt that 
Advani had won double the num- 
ber of votes of his closest rival. 
Advani’s popularity, he said, came 
from the fact that he had visited 
Britain in August this year and 
addressed a number of well- 
attended meetings. “The people* 
believe in him as a champion of the 
Hindu cause,” said Punj. 



Following the kar seva for the 
disputed temple, supporters and 
sympathisers of the VHP also 
started a news service to keep the 
people informed about the latest 
developments on the temple- 
mosque issue. The Bradford-based 
Panenjannya News Agency Inter- 
national now issues periodical press 
notes to keep the community in- 
formed. 

The Times newspaper in a strong 
editorial titled Who fools whom 
said the BBC should either declare 
Mr Advani “the winner of this 
ridiculous competition or admit 
that everybody has always che- 
ated”, and abandon the competi- 
tion. 


SUNDAY 6~12 JWMJWy 1991 ‘ 


61 





DMK goes down 

As the Pondicherry Speaker reverses his own ruling 


To many it seemed 
like a dress rehearsal. 
When the n i ne- 
ni o n t h - o 1 d DMK 
government headed 
by D Ramachandran 
tell in the tinv Union 

PONDICHERRY T of Pon- 
mmmmmmmmmimmmmm dic'herry, the event 
sent shock waves through party head- 
quarters in Madras The ruling DMK 
in neighbouiing Tamil Nadu is 
embroiled in a running battle with the 
Centre. So when Ramachandran fell 
in Pondicherry. M. Kariinanidhi of 
Tamil Nadu couldn't help worrying. 

The Ramachandran government 
appeared shaky ever since tiv' change 
at the Centre. But what really brought 
itjdown was the shitting loyalty of the 
Speaker, (i Palaniraia He was 
elected to the .‘^O-member House on a 
DMK ticket, but switched allegiance 
in favour of the C'ongress(l) at a critic- 
al moment .And in doing so, he even 
revoked his own order, disqualifying 
two Janata Dal MI. As who withdrew 
their support to the DMK government 
on 20 December, after announcing 
their decision to join the Janata 
Dal(S). 

The Speakers volte-face sea.ed the 
fate of the DMK-Janata Dal coalition 
and chief minister Ramachandran res- 
igned an hour before he was to face 
the vote of confidence at 10 am on 2*7 
December. “The Speaker has behaved 
in an undemocratic manner," a visibly 
angry Ramachandran told the media 
at his residence after returning from 
the Raj Nivas, where he had gone to 
hand in the papers to Lt-Ciovernor Dr 
Harswarup Singh. “After his action in 
revoking the disqualification of the 
two Janata Dal members, I felt we 
would not get any justice from the 
Speaker. So we decided to stay away 
from the Assembly and the confidence 
vote." he explained. 

The former chief minister and lead- 
er of the Opposition, M.O.H. Farook 
of the Congress(l).was elated by the 
turn of events. “I am in touch with the 
party high command about forming an 
alternative government," said Farook. 
as consultations began between the 
Congress(I). the AIADMK and their 


new ally, Janata Dal(S), regarding a 
new ministry. 

The Ramachandran ministry was 
plunged into a crisis on 2(1 December 
when three of the four Janata Dal 
MLAs decided to join the Janata 
Dal(S) and withdrew their support to 
the government. At first. Speaker 
Palaniraja disqualified two of the 
three rebels and the DMK leadership 
was confident of retaining power, 
although a case was pending in the 
Supreme Court regarding the validity 
of the ruling alliance nominating three 


legislators to increase the strength of 
the Assembly from 30 to 33. 

Nine months ago the Congress(I) 
'had emerged thesingle largest party 
with 1 1 seats after the Assembly elec- 
tions. The DMK had bagged nine and, 
of the remaining ten, the Janata Dal 
won four and the AIADMK three ’ 
The CPI and the CPI(M) secured one 
each and a DMK rebe> called Kamala- 
kannan won as an Independent candi- 
date. The Congress(I)-Al ADMK 
alliance thus had 14 seats and was 
edged out by the DMK-led combine 
which had 16. But with Palaniraja be- 
coming the Speaker, it could only 
boad of a razor-thm majority. And 
that ti)o was provided by Kamalakan- 
nan, who was won over by the promise 
of a ministerial berth. In order to se- 
cure the position of his ministry. 
Ramachandran decided to increase 
the strength of the House by inducting 
three nominated members, hoping 


that the move would fortify him 
against floor-crossings. 

Kamalakannan was aware of his 
worth from the very start. Though he 
hopped onto the DMK bandwagon, 
Kamalakannan chose to retain his in- 
dependent identity. And the moment 
the Ramachandran ministry ran into 
rough weather, Kamalakannan went 
over to the Congress on the plea that 
the Speaker's ruling, disqualifying the 
two Janata Dal MLAs, was undemo- 
cratic. 

Clearlv, the DMK-led combine and 


the Congress-AIADMK alliance were 
now on "a par with three Janata Dal 
MLAs joining the Dal(S) and Kamala- 
kannan deciding to support the Con- 
gress! 1). 

To break the deadlock, Lt- 
Ciovernor Harswarup Singh asked the 
chiet minister to demonstrate his 
strength at Raj Nivas on 24 Decem- 
ber. Ramachandran was in no position 
to do this. He explained to Singh that 
it would be impossible to fetch all the 
MLAs on the day before C'hristmas, 
but agreed to a trial of strengh in the 
Assembly on 27 December. The Lt- 
Governor granted Ramachandran's 
request. 

On 22 December, the DMK-led 
ministry appeared to be sinking for 
certain. The two disqualified Dal 
MLAs met the Speaker and pleaded 
for the restoration of their mem- 
bership. They cited a case from Naga- 
land, where the Speaker had revoked 




D.Ramachandnin: flat on hit face ; M.O.H.Farook; thrilled 


SUNDAY 6-12 January 1991 


63 




NEWS 



For our riots only 


The Centre plans a special force to combat communal 
violence 


an earlier order disqualifying 12 Con- 
gress(I) MLAs who had formed a new 
bloc within the House and reinstated 
them. Palaniraja agreed to go into 
their petition and rumours began 
doing the rounds that the Speaker had 
been “neutralised’’ by the Con- 
gress(l). 

True enough, Palaniraja turned up 
at a dinner hosted by Farook on 23 
December, though he gave no indica- 
tion of having switched loyalties. 
Alarmed by his vacillation, DMK sup- 
remo Karunanidhi called from Madras 
and urged him not to relent on the 
disqualification issue. In fact, the 
Tamil Nadu chief minister wanted 
Palaniraja to go a step further: dis- 
qualify the third Janata Dal member 
as well. But the Speaker was vague in 
his responses, prompting Karunanidhi 
to despatch two of his ministers to 
meet Palaniraja in Pondicherry. 

Late in the night of 25-26 Decem- 
:ber, the DMK delegation from Tamil 
Nadu met Palaniraja, requesting him 
to honour the high-command’s direc- 
tive. The Speaker promised to do his 
best, but the delegation went back to 
Madras convinced that Palaniraja had 
gone over to the enemy camp. And 
the fear came true on 26 December. 
Palaniraja revoked the disqualifica- 
tion order, making the vote of confi- 
dence the next day superfluous. 


Palaniraja turned up 
at a dinner hosted 
by Congressd) 
leader Farook on 23 
December. And 
three days later, the 
DMK’s fear came 
true 


With the fall of the DMK combine, 
the focus shifted to Farook who was 
expected to form a new ministry with 
the AIADMK and his new-found 
allies, the Dal(S) legislators. It 
seemed that AIADMK general- 
secretary Jayalaliiha would be only 
too happy if her party was given a few 
berths in the new Cabinet, although 
she told the media soon after 
Ramachandran’s fall that she prefer- 
red fresh elections.# 

RuBIrngwan Shigh/Madm 


In what seems to be a 
clear admission of his 
government’s inabil- 
ity to control the law 
and order situation, 
Prime Minister 
Chandra Shekhar has 
DELHI announced the set- 
ting Up Of a Central 
anti-riot force to handle communal 
violence. 

Though the proposal had been 
mooted during V.P.Singh’s tenure, it 
materialised only after Shekhar took 
over and several states were rocked by 
communal violence. In Uttar Pradesh 
alone, 50 companies of the Central 
Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and 20 
units of the Central Industrial Security 
Force (CISF) had been deployed to 
quell the violence in December. Be- 
sides these, the army had to be* called 
in at Agra and Aligarh, the Provincial 
Armed Constabulary (PAC) at other 
riot-affected towns. Even with such a 
large amalgam of forces, it took over a 


week to restore normalcy in UP. 

A tentative blue-print for the anti- 
riot force was prepared after Shekhar, 
accompanied by minister of state for 
home Subodh Kant Sahay, visited 
Manesar, where the training school 
for the National Security Guards 
(NSG) is located. Though raised as a 
special commando force, the NSG had 
to be deployed in Punjab and Andhra 
Pradesh, to tackle the Khalistanis and 
Naxalites respectively, for want of any 
other specialised force. The NSG per- 
sonnel have resented this deployment 
which, they feel, is a “routine” assign- 
ment. 

The Prime Minister, therefore, in- 
formed the Lok Sabha that the gov- 
ernment wanted a composite force 
which could be deployed in trouble 
spots within three hours and with- 
drawn after a few days. Sahay added 
that the force — likely to be called the 
Indian Reserve Battalion — would be 
raised by each state with the Centre 



64 


mJNOAV fr-12 January 1991 







NEWS 


Red letter ways 


A note suggesting underhand deals incriminates a Left 
Front minister 



Troops guarding a mosque In Delhi: 
yesterday, today—but tomorrow? 

helping to meet 50 per cent of the 
expenditure by way of subsidies and 
the remaining by advancing interest- 
free loans. While Gujarat and UP 
have already begun recruitment, other 
states are said to be holding consulta- 
tions with the Centre. 

Sahay admitted in the house that 
the local police and the PAC had 
proved ineffective in coping with the 
riots in many places. The constabulary 
of these forces, according to him, were 
overworked, had little or no training 
and no incentive. “And in case the loc- 
al police have any antagonisms or pre- 
judices against anyone, they get re- 
flected during a riot situation. Police- 
men sometimes want to settle scores 
and this raises a question mark on 
their performance,’' Sahay said. 

Though the modalities are still 
being worked out, it is understood 
that the NSG would be training the 
state squads in bomb disposal and 
anti-terrorism techniques. Their cut- 
ting edge would be their superior 
weaponry and the psychological 
advantage arising from their special 
status. 

But the vital question that remians 
to be answerecj is: will they be impar- 
tial? • 

RHuSaHnmwIMM 

SUNDAY S--12J«iuafy1991 


“Write what you 
wish," Kamakshya 
Nandan Das Maha- 
patra, the recently- 
appointed state 
minor irrigation 
minister told a repre- 
WEST BENGAL sentative of Ananda- 
bazar Patrika On 18 
December. “I have documents” the 
representative coollyannounced, “that 
appear to incriminate you." This, 
Mahapatra refused to believe. But 
when the story was splashed all over 
the front pages of Anandahazar Patri- 
ka, the largest selling Bengali daily, 
Mahapatra walked down the dusty 
corridors of Writers’ Buildings to chief 
minister Jyoti Basu’s office. “1 want to 
resign," he declared. 

Published alongside the article was 
a xerox copy of a letter allegedly 
written by Mahapatra to Pradip 
Kapoor, a contractor, thanking him 
for sending a certain sum of money. 
Dated 19 September and written on 
the minister’s official letterhead the 
note added: ‘i request you to be in 
touch with the* World Bank officials so 
that I get an opportunity to cancel the 
tender itself if it could not be settled as 
per the terms you told... don't worry 
for the attitude of C.C.W.B. project 
and I shall tackle him..." 

While both Mahapatra and Nanda- 
gopal Bhattacharya, the CPI state 


Das Mahapatra: In a mass 



secretary, dismissed the letter as a 
forgery, the minister admitted that the 
signature appeared to be his own. 
Even if the letter is not genuine, it is a 
clever forgery done by a wily insider, 
as the letter's contents fit in with the 
facts. When the state government 
called for a tender to install tubewells 
in different parts of the state on 17 
August 1989, Kapoor put in his bid, 
but the government preferred another 
I contractor. When Kapoor appealed to 
the Calcutta High Court on 7 March 
last year, the court stayed the order 
and called for a re-evaluation. “1 
obeyed the court's order, went 
through the papers again and accepted 
the tender committee’s recommenda- 
tion," noted Mahapatra, at a time 
when whispers of an out of court 
settlement were rife. 

Unfazed by the gathering storm, 
chief minister Basu refused to accept 
Mahapatra’s resignation. “These re- 
ports regularly appear in the newspap- 
ers. Don’t pay much attention to 
them," he told the minister. Basu 
himself never chose to resign when 
corruption charges (his son Chandan 
reportedly has a finger in every indus- 
trialist’s pie) were levelled against 
him. Though Basu did promise to 
institute an independent inquiry, the 
Left Front has asked him to take 
charge. But the original letter (if there 
was one) is missing and the copy is still 
with Anandahazar Patrika. 

The investigators will have to 
answer a flurry of difficult questions 
before they arrive at a conclusion. 
Why did the minister sign on blank 
sheets of paper if he did at all? Who 
had access to the minister's letter- 
heads, normally kept under lock and 
key? The letter was forged by Maha- 
patra’s enemies in the department 
who were making hay when the late 
Kanai Bhowmik was minister, claim 
Mahapatra’s apologists. Who, then, 
are the enemies? And most important- j 
ly, did Mahapatra really write the j 
letter? “The minister is not stupid. No 
one would implicate himself like 
that," Nandagopal Bhattacharya says 

But that is a statement that remains 
to be proved. • 

Srtt^y Chowdhury/Cahutia 



65 



Fake healer 

The Orissa 
government busts a 
religious racket 

I Fhe Parvatipur show had been 
I going on for one-and-a- 
half months before it was banned. 
This little town, 50 km from Bhu- 
baneswar, shot to fame when eight- j 
vear-old Sabita was set up as Sub- 
hadra (Lord Jagannath’s sister) re- 
born. The ‘wondergirl* 
was said to be endowed with super- 
natural healing powers. Her touch, 
or even just a look, was believed to 
work wonders. Sabita used to be 
dressed up like a deity by her father 
and uncle and made to give regular ^ 
darshans to thousands of ‘devotees*' 
who not only waited long hours for 
her 'healing touch* but also made | 
liberal monetary offerings. The 
show went on. And heavily lined 
the happy father’s pocket. (He is 
estimated to have deposited 
around Rs 3.5 lakhs in the nearest 
bank.) It also supported a number 
of ancillary ventures. Small eating 
joints, tea and pan shops, and 
transport operators did roaring , 
business. I 

But with the government declar- 
ing the affair unlawful on 17 De- 
cember and the arrest of Banamali, 
the girl’s father, and his accom- 
plices, who included the headmas- 
ter of a local school, the racket is 
likely to have been busted. And 
with good reason. The ‘wondergirl’ 
failed to cure anyone. Meanwhile, 
16 people — ^including eight women 
and three children — ^were killed in 
two road accidents caused by the 
heavy flow of traffic to Parvatipur, 
and two of the devotees succumbed 
to their ailments, as they refused to 
undergo medical treatment. 

, The first accident, which resulted 
in several casualties, created a fu- , 
tore leading to the ban. The gov- 
eTnmei]kt realised that the show 
would, it allowed to continue, ere- ' 
ate severe law and order as well as 
health problems in the area. It 
acted belatedly, but it was better 
tfam never^; 


Be brave! 


The CPI(M) urges the TUJS to form a minority 
government 


liWiilTITlitf-ijrl 


I O i O I O : : 


Scruples are easily 
the first casualty in 
politics. Just when 
the CPI(M) bigwigs 
all over the country 
are crying themselves 
hoarse over the “un- 
TRIPURA principled volte face"" 
by Chandra Shekhar 
that led to the fall of the V.P. Singh 
government, the party’s aging lead- 
ership in Tripura seems to be doing 
just that. Recently, the CPI(M)’s Tri- 
pura state secretary, Dasarath Deb, 
renewed his call to the Tripura Upa- 
jati Juba Samity (TUJS) to part ways 
with its senior partner, the Congres- 
s(I), so as to bring down the 34- 


The resolution says the Congress(I) 
government has declared “war on the 
tribals” by depriving the Tribal 
Autonomous District Council 
(TADC) of funds. It has also failed to 
check the infiltration of Bangladeshi 
immigrants into tribal areas which was 
jeopardising their “physical exist- 
ence”. The CPI(M) feels that the 
TUJS must now fight the Congress to 
“save the tribals from doom”. 

The move is cleverly timed. Of late 
differences between the Congress(I). 
and the TUJS have sharpened and the 
TUJS president, Shyama Charan Tri- 
pura, even threatened to “review the 
relation” unless some of their de- 
mands were met. Hectic parleys fol- 



month-old coalition government in the 
state. 

The TUJS has only seven MLAs in 
a 60-member House, but since both 
the CPI(M) and the Congress(I) have 
less than 30 members — which would 
have given them a simple majority — 
this small regional party holds the key 
to any coalition combination in Tri- 
pura. It isn’t surprising, therefore, 
that the TUJS is constantly being 
wooed by the Marxists in the state 
with the intention of pulling off a 
political coup. 

The CPI(M) seems to be leaving no 
stone unturned in its efforts to per- 
suade the TUJS. A resolution was 
adopted by the tribal front of the 
CPI(M), Upajati Ganmukti Parishad, 
in its annual convention, urging the 
TUJS to break away from the Con- 
gress-led coalition and form a new 
minority government which the Marx- 
ists promise to support from outside. 


Dasarath Deb has 
renewed his call to 
the TUJS to part ways 
with the Congress to 
bring down the 
coalition government 


lowed in Agartala and New Delhi — 
with Congress(l) president Rajiv Gan- 
dhi intervening to end the crisis. A few 
concessions were granted to the re- 
gional party and one of its junior 
ministers was upgraded to the Cabinet 
rank. 

But that did not solve the problem. 
The CPI(M) seems to be in no mood 
to give up. “We do not believe a few 
more portfolios for the TyJS would 
solve the tribals’ problem,” said Deb, 
at a rally after the Parishad’s conven- 
tion. “They can make a ministry of 
their own and we will support it from 
outside if they defend the tribals.” 
Whether the “tribal cause” is a mere 
bait to bring the Congress down, only 
time can tell. At the moment the 
CPI(M) seems to be championing it in 
real earnest. But the TUJS is yet to 
respond.# 

SubIrBhmmIk/AgartBla 


66 


•UNOAV 6-12 January 1991 





Pan-Indian drama 


Elkunchwar's plays cut across language barriers 


I t becomes rather difficult for an 
author in any one of our 14 major 
languages to win renown on a truly 
national level. But, over the last sever- 
al months, the plays of Marathi dra- 
matist, Mahesh Elkunchwar, have 
been drawing appreciative audiences 
and rave reviews in the recognised 
bastions of Indian drama. 

Last winter, in Calcutta, produc- 
tions of four Elkunchwar plays ran 
concurrently, setting some kind of 
precedent in the heart of the superior- 
than-thou Bengali theatre. (The last 
time one dramatist had so many plays 
staged at one time in Calcutta was 
during Bertolt Brecht's 80th birth 
anniversary celebrations in 1978.) 
And the four productions were in 
different languages:/4rmaka//ia in 
Marathi, Holi and Virasat in Hindi 
and Pttaradhikar in Bengali. 

Within a few months, five of Elkun- 
chwar's plays were translated into En- 
glish and released by Seagull Books of 
Calcutta, ensuring that the English- 
reading public got to know him better. 

. The plays chosen were Party, Flower 
of Blood, Old Stone Mansion, Reflec- 
tion and Autobiography. 

In Bombay, where the Marathi 
stage is known for its fast turnover, 
Atmakatha has notched up 120 shows 
and is still running, to the pleasant 
surprise of its four-member cast, in- 
cluding the redoubtable Dr Shreeram 
Lagoo. All this despite the fact that 
(as Elkunchwar himself admits) it is a 
very wordy play. 

And just to underline that Calcut- 
ta's last cultural winter was no fluke, 
during one 48-hour period at the start 
of the current theatre season, four 
more of his plays were on view at 
different locations: Holi in Hindi, and 
Party, Pratibimb and Uttaradhikar in 
Bengali. Small wonder then, that 
Elkunchwar told Sunday, ''Calcutta 
is my second home”. 

But home for Elkunchwar is Nag- 

f )ur, a central Indian city significantly, 
or this dramatist with a pan-Indian 
^peal. He holds a double M.A. in 
English literature as well as ancient 
Indian history and archaeology and, 
naturally, turned to teaching. The job, 
he jokes, leaves him with considerable 
free time for writing. 

In the 1970s, he gained a good deal 


of notoriety among conservative cri- 
tics ^ the enfant terrible of Marathi 
drama; his play Vasanakund, directed 
by Amol Palekar, even attracted cen- 
sorship because it dealt with incest. 
But, it was in the 1980s that his fame 
^read outside the Marathi theatre, 
first to the Hindi stage, through ver- 
sions directed by Satyadev Dubey, fol- 
lowed by the publication of four Hindi 
translations by Delhi's Vidya Pra- 
kashan. He also diversified into writ- 
ing the screenplays for such films as 
Holi (by Ketan Mehta) and Party, (by 
Govind Nihalani), though he now 
feels that directors take too much 
liberty with movies. 


tion of a single event differs from per- 
son to person, how trufri and reality 
are figments of human imagination. 

Elkunchwar feels that things un- 
spoken create greater theatrical beau- 
ty and leave more space for the actor 
to expand. Simultaneously, theatre is 
the art of the spoken word. His 
insight into interpersonal vibes makes 
him a favoured dramatist for many 
women directors. 

Elkunchwar prides in calling himself 
a “litterateur”, not a theatre person. 
He strongly believes that a play can 
live on the printed page and must be 
independently comprehensible to a 
reader, and he doesn’t care much for 




r I 


(■b»v«)andaMaiM 
from Mrauf , (Ml) a 

- -o — o-t— 

Hum MHipimon Of ms 
play: sonslthfo ' 


In the Seagull editions, Elkunchwar 
reveals his dissatisfaction with the ear- 
ly angry plays, which showed little 
empathy with their characters. Thus, 
in place of violent student unrest or 
satiric digs at Bombay's intelligentsia, 
V/ada Chirebandi brought a quiet, re- 
flective and compassionate touch, 
dealing with the disintegrating for- 
tunes of an aristocratic joint family. 

In Pratibimb, his next work, he si- 
lenced those critics who complained 
that he lacked comedy. Superficially 
funny, philosophically serious, it de- 
picts an ordinary man who wakes up 
one morning to find that he has no 
reflection in the mirror. Atmakatha, 
his newest play, analyses the role- 
playing men and women constantly 
resort to in life, and (almost like 
Pirandello) proves how the recollec- 


the trendy practice of theatre without 
a text — plays that are improvised or 
have no formal script. 

He also holds negative views about 
^olk-based productions. Terming it 
“artistic kleptomania”, he argues that 
such performances not only exploit 
genuine rural forms, they are also 
dressed up for export. He does not 
agree that they are more Indian than 
our urban Westernised theatre. 

Elkunchwar desires a kind of spir- 
itual encounter in the theatre, with 
actors revealing their souls to the audi- 
ence. In our theatres, he says, as in 
our megapolises, people distrust true 
communication because it makes them 
vulnerable. Heart-to-heart com- 
munication is what Elkunchwar wants 
to convey through his drama.# 
AnandaUMakuHa 


SUNDAY ft-12 JwiMry 1M1 




k-i-t 

. 















Pllplllllp^ 


U maid Palace Road. As 
addresses go, it has a cer- 
tain ring to it. With 
reason. For, the street is 
the centre of Jodhpur's 
flourishing antique trade, worth over 
Rs 100 crores at a conservative esti- 
mate. And it is from here that the 
most fabulous art objects and rate 
pieces of furniture make their way to 
destinations around the world: finely 
painted screens for J.C. Penny’s in 
London, a wooden toy collection for 
Bloomingdales, Washington D.C., 
huje carved chests for Taj Mahal 
Hotel, New Dehli and curios for such 
celibrity residences as Pupul 
Jayakar’s. 

But most of what Jodhpur’s art 
empofia and little antique shops sell is 
not the authentic stun. Demand has 
gone up and the 1972 Antique Act 
restrictnfg gale of any object over a 
100 years old to foreign buyers has led 
to the ‘‘manufacturing” of antiques, by 
employing ageing processes. Explains 
Gopal Ck^al, owner of Ganghaur 




Handicrafts, a flourishing export 
house in Jodhpur: “Most of the trad- 
ers switched to manufacturing in the 
Seventies.” 

The beginnings of the trade were, 
however, very different. Ram Kishore 
Singhal’s father Lalji, for instance, 
used to travel into the interior villages 
to salvage old bits of furniture and 
other household objects that were to 
be used for firewood. These would 
then be restored and sold to interested 
parties. Says Singhal: “Till 1975, 
handicrgfts were considered to be a 
hippie trade. After that big companies 
came in and started refurbishing old 
goods and finally, manufacturing a 
wide range.” Antiques, genuine and 
otherwise, soon b^me big business 
and Sin^al discloses that his com- 
pany, Rajasthan Art Emporium, is ex- 
pected to achieve a turnover of Rs 10 
crores in three years time. 

By the standards of a small Rajas- 
thani town, this is big money. The 
Singhal empire spreads over three 
large emporia, two in Jodhpur alone. 


I comprising a maze of showrooms, 
workshops and studios. Ram Singhal’s 
outfit, which offers over 3,000 artifacts 
for buyers to choose from, includes a 
computerised research centre to keep 
up with the competition presented by 









RITU SARIN 



G opal Goyal, a dealer in antiques, 
has a diferrent version of events. 
The making of fakes must have begun, 
he says, when a dealer got an order, of 
20 wooden doors, for instance, which 
he could not fulfil. To make up for the 
shortfall, he resorted to *'manufactur- 
ing”. Now copies are made from the 
originals and art volumes almost as a 
matter of course. 

The process is fairly complicated. 
Metal, wood or bone is burnt, and 
treated with chemicals to give it the 
right look. Wood, for instance, is tre- 
ated with potassium permanganate 
and mansion polish to age it suitably. 
Some manufacturers also "'polish it 
with mud, to make for the just-dug- 
out look. 


in severe debt and wish to dispose of 
these articles. But they don't want 
others in the village to get to know of 
it because they feel ashamed of selling 
off their ancestral property.” 

Generally, dealers hire “spotters” 
for such expeditions, who lead them 
into the interior. The antiques unear- 
thed are photographed and their 
prices decided upon. These photo- 
graphs are then taken to Jodhpur and 
shown to collectors and foreign 
buyers. Only if they evince any in- 
terest are these objects picked up. 
And soon enough, o^oads are trans- 
ported to Umaid Palace Road. 

The kind of antiques which have a 
ready market remain the same though 
they may be used differently. Carved 



R.K. Singhal 
with his wife 

“Handicrafts were 
considered to be a 
hippie trade till bi^ 
companies came in" 


Umaid Paiace Road 

Centre of Jodhpur's antique trade 


the arts of Europe, Indonesia and 
Thailand and redesign objects to suit 
foreign markets. 





Saiim Sheikh 

**The traders worked 
their way around a 
ban in ivory trade by 
manufacturing fakes'' 


The making of fake ivory objects 
has caught on as well. In the past 
dealers would travel into the interior 
buying ivory bangles off the village 
women, but the ban on the sale of 
ivo^ put an end to that. But, says 
antique dealer Salim Sheikh, the trad- 
ers worked their way around that by 
manufacturing fakes. Pieces of bone 
would be dipped in henna for two to 
three hours, and after chiselling and 
puffing, it would look exactly like old 
ivory, out of which curios could be 
grafted. 


B u‘ it’s not as if every visitor to 
Umaid Palace Road returns home 
with s fake antique. The authentic 
stuff is still on sale, with such dealers 
as Gopal Goyal venturing into the in- 
terior, sometimes travelling 30 
kilometres or so on camelback, to un- 
earth some rare treasure. Says Goyal: 
“In many deserted villages even today 
people are willing to sell antiques off 
real cheap.Many of these people are 


wooden or stone jharokas or facades, 
for instance, are used to fit lopking 
glasses or as the frontage of farm 
houses. Painted leather wine bottles 
double as lamp shades. palkis are re- 
designed to serve as mini bars and 
planters. Of course, the price differ- 
ence between the original and the fake 
is always immense. 

Despite the ban, says Goyal, “more 
than 50 per cent of the antiques found 
in Rajasthan go out of the country”. 
And ever since the ethnic look has 
caught on, the Indian market has ex- 
panded as well, with old jewellery, 
furniture and household objects being 
much in demand. Says Singhal: 
“When I came into the business and 
started collecting old rolling pins and 
bowls, people used to laugh at me. 
But they sold in millions and now ori- 
ginals are near impossible to find.” 

But replicas can be made only too 
easily, keeping the fake antique busi- 
ness of Umaid Palace Road, Jodhpur 
going. • 

RhuSaHn/ Jodhpur 


•UNMV»-12JMu«y1N1 





:(:Tyrrifxi 


he making of Ajooba 
seems to have taken its toll 
on Shashi Kapoor. For. th^ 
roly-poly flop-actor-turned- 
director was taken seriously 
ill, recently. 

While his staff main- 
tained a stiff-lipped silence, 
sources close to Kapoor 
had it that his blood press- 
ure had shot up 


grass, except maybe once 
under peer pressure”, and 
the like) nobody is going to 
believe your nonsense about 
Roy. 

hat happens when a 
mega-star meets up with a 
self-styled superstar? No, 
sparks don’t fly. The two 
men merely exchange 





AnN Kapoor: at his nervous bMt 

meaningless smiles and I KhudaGawah and the 


ShasN KapooR get well soon 

tremendously and that he’d ' 
retired to his farm in Loni 
for some much-needed 
rest. 

Here’s hoping he gets 
well soon. 


1 1 was always quite clear 
that Rahul Roy was not 
Anu Aggarwal’s favourite 
person. But now that the 
Aashiqui hero’s career 
hasn’t really taken off, his 
co-star is letting it all hang 
out, lashing out publicly 
against the man with the 
Tather unfortunate hair- 
style. 

In a recent interview with 
a film glossy, Anu held 
forth disdainfully on 
Roy: “I feel so sorry for 
him. How can you be an 
actor without a voice? 
(Roy’s voice was dubbed in 
AashiquL) I guess it’s not 
easy when your co-star is 
appreciated more than 
you,”, etc., etc. 

Sure Anu, sure. But 
since very few people are 
taken in by your baloney 
about yourself (“I am just 
22”, “I am not calculating”, 
“Actually I’m quite vulner- 
able”, “I’ve never smoked 


equally meaningless 
pleasantries. 

Yes, that’s what Ami- 
tabh Bachchan and Anil 
Kapoor did when they 
came face to face while 
shooting at Mehboob Stu- 
dios recently: the big B for 



Pooja Bfdl: going the IWiiil Roy way 


puny Kapoor for Beta. 

Despite the innocuous 
nature of the exchanges 
however, Kapoor fidgeted 
his way through the meet- 
ing, while Amitabh was at 
his magnanimous best. 

Observers were, though, 
hard-put to explain why 
Bachchan had chosen to 
come visiting. Was he 
trying to keep tabs on the 
talent (such as it is) of his 
adversary? Or was this real- 
ly a courtesy call? 

Whatever the reason, 
everyone heaved a sigh of 
relief when Bachchan 
walked oin with his entour- 
age and the tension was dis- 
sipated somewhat. 

IP ooja Bedi may be mak- 
ing her film debut with Jag- 
mohan Mundra’s Vish- 
kanya, playing a snake- 
woman, but she doesn’t 
speak the snake language 
too well. 

So her dialogues are 
being dubbed by Naaz, er- 
stwhile child star and the 
ghost- voice of Sridevi until 
the southern star decided to 
do her own stuff, while 
Bedi does the rounds of 
Bombay’s nightclubs. 

Let’s hope the nymphet 
doesn’t go the Rahul Roy 
way, instead of following in 
the footsteps of Rati Agni- 
hotri, whose voice was dub- 
bed for Ek Duje Ke Liye 
and who went on to achieve 
stupendous success. ^ 


70 


Parlour pets 

People prefer piranhas to poodles 


A nd now, it’s piranhas as pets. 
Bombayites in search of con- 
versational centre-pieces have 
begun to favour the presence of these 
deadly fish in their aquaria. It can, 
however, prove to be something of a 
fatal attraction, since a hungry piranha 
can rapidly make a meal of an unwary 
hand, such as that of a child, dipped 
into the tank. 

Douglas Marquis, who has been 
dealing in fish, birds and animals for 
20 years, says, “People want these 
piranhas because of all the horror stor- 
ies they have heard about them.” Af- 
ter all, these fish have been known to 
reduce a cow to its skeleton in three 
minutes. “But then,” adds Marquis, 
“they travel in schools of millions” in 
their natural habitat. If people who 
keep piranhas in glass houses refrain 
from starving them, the other occu- 
pants of the tank are safe. If not, 
they’re dead meat. 

Viren Kapoor, who has a stable of a 
dozen piranhas, says he prefers them 
to tamer species like angelfish, gold- 
fish or even fighters: “Piranhas are not 
bad-looking, and knowing that they 
are killers has a special fascination.” 

Fascination may be bought at Rs 70 
a pair and kept alive on raw mince. 

But there is more to it than that. 
With changing times, and a premium 
on space in the big cities, pet-owners 
are increasingly going in for the small 
and the trouble-free. But the accent is 
clearly on exotica. And what this new 
breed lacks in qualities that make a 
dog, or a horse, for instance, man’s 
best friend, it makes up for in viewer- 
appeal. 

Keeping dogs, and the sentiment 
attached to them, may be old hat, but 
not if they are pedigreed. German 
shepherds and Dobermans remain 
common favourites while the fierce- 
faced, mild-tempered bulldog is more 
upmarket. Pedigreed dogs cost around 
Rs 5,000, a safe source being the Ken- 
nel Club, but smaller pet-dealers do 
brisk business elsewhere in the city, 
making a profit of around Rs 13,000 
per litter 

Cats, too, carry exorbitant price- 
tags. A Persian kitten costs from Rs 
3,500 to Rs 5,000; a Siamese consider- 


ably less, at around Rs 1,000. An adult 
Persian, that can be put to mate, may 
cost as much as Rs 10,000. Add to this 
the trouble of maintenance, grooming 
and the requisite isolation from the 
diseases of the hardier hoi polloi of the 
feline world. The last may prove im- 
possible as, in the words of veterinary 
surgeon Raghvan Das, “It is difficult 
to stop a male cat from mating, once 
the season is on.” 

Bird-lovers are equally susceptible 



to the lure of the expensive status 
symbol. An Australian cockatoo is 
priced between Rs 6,000 and Rs 
10,000, its value rising in proportion to 
its ability to talk or sing. Sheena 
Barucha is the owner of one such bird, 
housing it in an elaborate cage in her 
garden and supplementing its bird 
food with a “balanced” diet of cooked 
mutton, greens, vitamins and fruit. 

Bombay’s Crawford market caters 
to buyers looking for variety more 
than bloodlines. Here, the pets range 
from the conventional budgerigars, 
turtles and rabbits to African love- 
birds, as here, too, the smaller dealers 
abound. In fact, if the government 
were only to encourage the pet 
business,it would benefit tnousands of 
entrepreneurs in the city, says bird- 
seller, S. Sane, who feels that the pet 






business is not organised. 

For there are buyers, especially in 
big cities, who are willing to pay a 
fortune for a rare pet. Douglas Mar- 
quis chanced upon one such prize — a 
pup sired by a jackal on a mongrel 
bitch — but before Marquis could capi- 
talise on his find, the * jackdaw’ was 
run over by a truck. 

And so, the search for the rare and 
the sensational goes on, not necessari- 
ly at a steep price. Piranhas are in- 
finitely less trouble and money than 
poodles. And people prefer them.* 
CMhmy^ereMAHnlmy 


SUNDAY S-12 January 1991 


71 




A historical enquiry by Sushil Shrivastava 


With religious feelings at an all-time 
high, everybody seems to have lost 
sight of the central issue in the 
Ayodhya controversy. Does the Babri 
Masjid stand on the site of the Ram 
Janmabhoomi? And was the disputed 
mosque built by the Mughal Emperor 
Babut, after he'd ordered the demoli- 
tion of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple? 
Sushil Shrivastava, reader in the de- 
partment of medieval and modern his- 
tory, Allahabad University and former 
research fellow of the Indian Council 
of Historical Research, attempts to 
answer these questions, 

T he popular belief that Babur 
and Aurangzeb destroyed 
temples in Ayodhya was 
bolstered by the theories 
that appeared since the ad- 
vent of British rule in India. It has 
been held th« the Muslim rulers were 


committed to the expansion of Islam, 
and that they made a policy of des- 
troying Hindu temples to oppress Hin- 
dus and to convert them. However, 
this belief cannot be substantiated. 
There is no concrete historical evi- 
dence that the Mughal emperors, 
Babur and Aurangzeb, even came to 
Ayodhya. Nor is there any historical 
basis for the belief that Babur and 
Aurangzeb ordered the breaking of 
temples in Ayodhya. In any case, 
if the Mughal rulers had undertaken 
the destruction of Hindu tem- 
ples as their pious duty, they failed 
utterly. Neither was the Hindu 
population reduced considerably nor 
was there a significant decrease in the 
number of Hindu temples. This belief 
would also suggest that the Mughals 
were more fanatical than their prede- 
cessors, the Turkish Sultans. Long be- 
fore the alleged visit of Babur to 


Ayodhya, the city had been invaded 
by Turkish soldiers under Sayad Salar 
Masud, in 1030. In 1194, Avadh was 
annexed to the Delhi Sultanate and 
the area had Muslim rulers from then 
on. The local myths do not accuse 
them of having destroyed Hindu tem- 
ples. But history seems to believe that 
the Mughal emperors were more in- 
tolerant towards Hindu subjects than 
the Turkish Sultans. 

Some Muslim rulers did destroy 
Hindu temples. The practice was fol- 
lowed largely by the early Turkish Sul- 
tans, primarily for economic gains and 
also for reasons of facility. Subsequent 
Muslim rulers destroyed Hindu tem- 
ples to glorify their own reigns and 
also as acts of retribution. One view is 
that temples were destroyed .by the 
later Muslim rulers because they had 
become centres of unlawful activity. 

Of the Mughal emperors, Akbar de- 


72 


SUNDAY 6-12 January iSBI 










Sis s ai iiS 

finitely passed through Ayodhya, but 
there are no myths about his presence. 
In fact, Akbar was rather amused at 
the penchant of the local people, both 
Hindu and Muslim, for myths regard- 
ing places of worship. 

Babur has been labelled the princip- 
al villain, yet the charges against him 
do not agree at all with the known 
personality of Babur. He was a fine 
soldier, an able administrator and a 
prolific writer and was not a religious 
fanatic in any way. A close reading of 
the Bahur-Nama reveals that he was 
an extremely God-fearing man but in 
no way opposed to religions other 
than Islam. It is true that he did ridi- 
cule the life and practices of ascetics of 
some sects of Hinduism but he never 
attempted to abolish that system. 
There are numerous instances in the 
Bahur-Nama where he has praised the 
art, architecture and sculpture associ- 
ated with Hindu temples. He dis- 
approved of nude idols but was not an 
iconoclast. A sharp observer, Babur 


always found time to record anything 
that appealed to his aesthetic sense. 
He does not mention any incident 
when he or his men ever destroyed 
any Hindu temple. 

In his memoirs, Babur does not 
even say that he visited Ayodhya. He 
only mentions that he was stationed in 
Avadh on the banks of the river Ghag- 
ra. He observes that, on 28 March 
1528, he was stationed in the north of 
Avadh on the junction of two rivers. 
The activities of Babur during the 
period 2 April 1528 to 8 September 
1528 are unknown. This is because the 
pages giving an account of Babur's 
activities on these days are missing. 
The myth has developed because of 
this absence of information. 




oth the local Hindus and Muslims 
'describe the same circumstances, 
with slight variations, of the construc- 
tion of Babur’s mosque. They say 
Babur ordered the destruction of the 
Ramjanmabhoomi temple on the re- 
commendation of a Muslim fakir. 



control it and become as popular. Dr 
Radhey Shyam Shukla holds that the 
two fakirs were encouraged by the 
popularity of the tomb of Syed Salar 
Masud in Bahraich, which he believes 
was constructed after destroying the 
Hindu temple of Balark Kund in 
Bahraich. He contends that thousands 
of Hindus congregate there not for the 
darshan of the mazaar but because 
they know that there was once a tem- 
ple there. 

The myth further says that, when 
the two fakirs were with Shyamanan- 
da, Babur arrived in Ayodhya. They 
approached him with their proposal 
and forced him to agree to the destruc- 
tion of the Babri Masjid. Some hold 
the opinion that Musa Aashikan was 
impressed by the spiritual atmosphere 
of the Ramjanmabhoomi. He often 
sat inside the temple. One day, he was 
thrown out, and swore to destroy it. 
Yet another story in circulation relates 
that, when Babur came to Ayodhya, 
he was exhausted, having been at war 
with the Rajputs and having come to 


A close reading 
of the 

Babur-Nama 
reveals that the 
Mughal 
Emperor does 
not record any 
incident when 
he, or his 
followers, 
destroyed any 
Hindu temple 


When Babur came to Ayodhya, goes 
the story, the Ramjanmabhoomi area 
was under the control of Mahatma 
Shyamananda. He was also the care- 
taker of the Ramjanmabhoomi tem- 
ple. Shyamananda was a very famous 
saint and he did not believe in any 
distinctions of sect or creed. He had 
several Muslim disciples. It is said that 
the fakir, Fazl Abbas Musa Aashikan 
and Jalalshah, took shelter with him. 
Impressed by the huge crowds of peo- 
ple who came for the darshan of the 
Ramjanmabhoomi temple, they 
thought that if there was a mosque at 
the same spot, they would be able to 


fight the Pathans in Ayodhya. He had 
been unable to suppress the latter and 
was feeling dispirited. He 
approached a large number of reli- 
gious men, both Hindu and Muslim, 
to bless him with victory in war against 
the Pathans. In Ayodhya he heard 
about the miracles of the fakirs, Musa 
Aashikan and Jalalshah. He went to 
seek their blessings and it was then 
that Musa Aa.shikan asked him to des- 
troy the Ramjanmabhoomi temple 
and construct the Babri Masjid in its 
place. Musa Aashikan told Babur 
that, once he completed this pious 
task, his mission would he accom- 


SUNOAY 6—12 January 1991 


73 






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BOOK EXTRACT 


plished. 

The local myths are associated with 
the widespread belief that Babur came 
to Ayodhya on 28 March, 1528. It was 
the British scholars and administrators 
who strengthened the idea. John 
Leyden said so in his 1813 translation 
of Babur’s memoirs. I le made direct 
reference to the fact that the activities 
of Babur in Ayodhya aic unknown as 
the pages of the diary relating to the 
emperor’s activities between 2 April 
and 18 Septembei , 1528 are missing. 
This revelation by Lev<len was fol- 
lowed by the claim of Marlin in 1834 
that he had been t(‘ the Babri Masjid 
and found black stone pillars in the 
mosque. rhe\ weie iin-Islamic anil 
therefore must have been taken from 
a Hindu temple. In 1854. William 
Erskine also published a iraiislation of 
the memoirs and he too toniended 
that Babul was in Ayodhva on 28 
MarchJ528 In 187V )l M IJliot re- 
peated this view In 18o(l. ( ariiegv 
made a direct lelerenee to Babur hav- j 
ing destroyed the Riimianmabhoomi i 
temple. In 1877. \\' (' Benct sup- j 
port^^d the contention of ( arnegy. I 
Elliot made an mdnii.1 lelerenee to! 
Babur's desiiuciioit of the tamous j 
RamjanmabliiMinn temple lie eon- | 
tended that Babin consirueled the ’ 
mosque on the sp(»i of the fallen tern- j 
pie. C’onsequenil\ . iiichaeologists j 
adopted the same thinking. C'unmng- 
harn in 1865 and I uhiei in 18^)1 repe- ! 
ated the local traditions All the But- | 
ish scholais and admmistialors who | 
have been quoted above wrote in the i 
nineteenth eenturs The\ were con- 
vinced that Babur visited Ayodhya 
and had been involved in some myste- 
rious activity there. 

It appears that the local myths were 
granted respectabilitv by Jolm Leyden 
in 1813, even though Annette Susan- 
nah Beveridge corrected the fallacy in 
1921. She wrote that Babur was sta- 
tioned some distance north of 
Ayodhya on 28 March. 1528. 

Leyden said, on the basis ot the 
details in the Babur- Namu, that Babur 
encamped 4 to 6 miles north of And at 
the junction of the two rivers Sirwa 
and Ghagra. He concluded, wrongly, 
that Aud and Ayodhya w'ere the same. 
It is a historical fact that, since the 
Muslim penetration in Avadh, a larger 
area around Ayodhya came to be cal- 
led Aud. Ibn Baluta, in fact, refers to 
the whole area between the rivers 
Gumti and Ghagra as Aud. 

Beveridge gives us the actual loca- 
tion of Babur’s camp on 28 March, 
1528. She concluded that Babur was 

IUNI>AVe-12Januafy 1981 


encamped at the junction of the rivers 
Sirda and Ghagra. She stayed in 
Faizabad for two months and ac- 
quainted herself well with the local 
geography. She was convinced that the 
location of Babur’s camp had to be in 
the north of Ayodhya. 

I t is therefore doubtful that Babur 
ever camfe to Ayodhya. 'I'hose who 
claim that Babur destroyed the 
famous Ramjanmabhoomi temple in 
Ayodhya and ordered the construc- 
tiem of a mosque known today by his 


sinful if they came to know about his 
activities in Ayodhya. 

Nor can Babur’s successors be 
blamed. Humayun had the Tuzuki-i- 
Humayuni compiled and made refer- 
ence to the memoirs of Babur. Akbar 
asked Abul FazI to compile the 
Akbar-Nama and asked two men to 
translate the Babur-Nama for Abul 
Fazl’s reference. Later, Abdur Rahim 
undertook and completed the transla- 
tion ot the Babur-Nama in Persian. 
None of these successors is likely to 
have removed the missing pages. 


The Mughals 
could have, iff they 
so wished, done 
away with any 
evidence that 
would remind the 
Hindus off the 
destroyed temple. 
They chose not to, 
suggesting that a 
mandir never 
stood on this site 


It 











name on the spot are convinced that 
Babur was in Ayodhya between 29 
March and 18 September, 1528. They 
argue that Babur or some one after 
him deliberately obliterated the 
account of his activities in Ayodhya 
during the period. They say that this 
was done with a view to consolidate 
the Mughal Empire in India. 

Babur cannot be accused of deliber- 
ately removing the pages from the 
memoirs. He himself observed in his 
memoirs that on 25 May, 1529 there 
was a strong storm and several tents 
were uprooted. He also said that 
pages of his writing flew away and 
were lost. It is said that he removed 
the pages because he was afraid that 
the posterity would blame him as an 
iconoclast. Babur was no visionary 
and he could not have concluded that 
in the nineteenth century some people 
would begin to label his actions as 


The Mughals were the empeiois of 
Hindustan and were quite convinced 
of their own glory. They never ques- 
tioned the future of the Mughal 
Empire in India. Nor did they imagine 
that a time would come when then 
actions would be questioned. Since 
the successors of Babur allowed 
Babur’s sarcastic remarks regarding j 
the way of life of the Hindu ascetics to 
remain in the memoirs, it would be 
surprising if they erased the record of 
his activities in Ayodhya. If the pages i 
were destroyed for fear that they 1 
would incite Hindu subjects against ' 
the empire, then the Mughal empeiois ! 
should also have removed the Persian ' 
inscriptions of the inside and outside ; 
of the mosque. The allegation piesiip- | 
poses that, as Babur had destioved the 
Ramjanmabhoomi temple in 
Ayodhya, the Hindus were already 
disturbed. In that case, the mosque in 



BOOK EXTRACT 


Ayodhya would always remind the 
people of the destroyed Ramnan- 
mabhoomi temple and the removal of 
Babur's testimony would not make 
any difference. In all probability, only 
two alternatives were available to the 
Mughal emperors if the Ramjan- 
mabhoomi temple had existed in 
Ayodhya. They could have completely 
done away with any evidence that 
would remind the Hindus of the des- 
troyed temple. Along with the pages 
of the memoirs they should have also 
demolished the mosque with its in- 
scriptions. Or, they could have openly 
claimed that it was the pious duty of 
Muslims to demolish any place of 
worship of the infidels and, therefore, 
the destruction of the Ramjan- 
mabhoomi temple was a holy act on 
the part of Babur. The Mughal emper- 
ors chose neither of the two alterna- 
tives. This makes one wonder if there 
was ever a Shri Ramjanmabhoomi 
temple on the spot of the Babri Masjid 
in Ayodhya. 

T he Muslims of Ayodhya/Faizabad, 
like their Hindu counterparts, 
have several myths about their places 
of worship. The stories relate to the 
several graves, roads and mosques in 
Ayodhya in 1528 and destroyed the 
famous Ramjanmabhoomi temple, to 
propitiate Pir Fazal Abbas Musa 
Aashikan. The Muslim saint lived in 
the area south-west of the Ramjan- 
mabhoomi temple, where there is, 
today, a graveyard said to contain the 
grave of the saint. His tomb is marked 
by two inverted black-stone pillars 
half-buried in the earth. The local 
Muslims are convinced that the use of 
the black stone pillars in the mosque 
indicates that the material of the 
Ramjanmabhoomi temple was used in 
the construction of the mosque. They 
further claim that similar pillars were 
put at the head of the grave as a mark 
of respect. 

The local Hindus say the original 
temple along with other temples in 
Ayodhya had gone into oblivion until, 
in the fifth century AD. Bikramjeet (a 
corruption of Vikramaditya) came to 
Ayodhya during one of his military 
campaigns and, after a divine revela- 
tion, decided to re-establish the sever- 
al places of worship associated in some 
way with the life of Ram. In this way, 
Bikramjeet established 360 places of 
worship of Ram and the most impor- 
tant among them was the Ramjan- 
mabhoomi temple. They relate that 
the Ramjanmabhoomi temple con- 
structed by Bikramjeet rested on 84 


pillars made of black-stone which they 
claim is the kasauti stone (touchstone) 

As a matter of fact, the black-stone 
pillars belong to a period between the 
tenth and eleventh centuries. Abul 
Fazl, who said the city was also called 
the city of Ram or Ramjanmabhoomi, 
ridicules the local Muslims for rever- 
ing graves which they considered to be 
those of the paigambaras. Sis and 
Ayub Abul Fazl gives no information 
regarding the Babri Masjid and the 
Ramjanmabhoomi temple. This forces 
us to contend that there was never any 
Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya 
and that, until the time of Akbar, the 
contentious mosque was not known as 
Babur's mosque. It came to be called 
the Babri Masjid at a later period. 

It is true that several non-Islamic 
elements have been freely used in the 
construction of the mosque. These 
include the black-stone pillars, the 
carving of a varaha (boar, an avatar of 
Vishnu) on the outside enclosure of 
the Masjid, and the wooden beam just 
below the arch. The two inscriptions, 
one on the inside and the other 
outside the mosque, suggest that the 
Babri Masjid was constructed at the 
behest of Babur. 

The black-stone pillars used in the ‘ 
Babri Masjid are remarkable in that 
very few structures with such pillars 


now exist. We found 18 similar pillars 
in Ayodhya and Faizabad. There are 
14 black-stone pillars used in the Babri 
Masjid and two identical pillars at the 
head of Musa Aashikan's grave. The 
grave is about 600 yards south-west of 
the mosque. A similar solitary pillar is 
to be found in the Faizabad Canton- 
ment. There is another black-stone 
pillar about four feet in height found 
at the entrance to the Janmaathan 
temple inside the Kaushalya Bhawan 
in Ayodhya. In addition to the 18 
black-stone pillars found in Ayodhya 
and Faizabad, we came across two 
black-stone pillars kept in the U.P. 
State Museum, Lucknow. These pil- 
lars were brought from a village in 
Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh. 
Apart from these, we did not find any 
other black-stone pillars in U.P. 
However, we may add that carvings 
on black stone are known to have 
been frequently used in Buddhist and 
Jain structures. 

It was clear from the un-islamic 
columns in 'Babur's mosque' that the 
mosque was consturcted from the ruins 
of a non-Islamic building. We there- 
fore photographed the pillars to date 
the carvings on them. As we were not 
allowed to photograph the exterior or 
the interior of the mosque, we decided 
to photograph some pillars outside the 


The local Muslims 
are convinced that 
the use of the 
black stone pillars 
in the mosque 
indicates that the 
material of the 
Ram 

Janmabhoomi 
temple was used 
in the 
construction of 
the masjid 



f? 


76 


SUNDAY S-12 January 19B1 



BOOK EXTRACT 


The Hindus claim 
that the Ram 
Janmabhoomi 
temple, as 
reconstructed by 
Vikramaditya, 
rested on 84 
pillars made of 
> > urhat they call 
Irasaiftfstone 



mosque. The two pillars at the grave 
of Musa Aashikan were disfigured and 
the carving was not very clear, so we 
photographed the lone pillar buried in 
Faizabad Cantonment. This pillar is in 
good condition and shows the carvings 
very clearly. We were also informed 
that there was a black-stone pillar at 
the entrance of the Janmasthan tem- 
ple situated in the Kaushalya Bhawan. 
This pillar is at the Jambdwar and is in 
an extremely disfigured state. We 
also photographed the two black- 
stone pillars kept in the U.P. State 
Museum, Lucknow. (These pillars at 
that time were kept in the storeroom 
in the basement of the Museum). 

We showed the photographs of the 
different pillars to two of the greatest 
experts on Ancient Indian temple art 
and architecture. Professor M.A. 
Dhakay and Professor Krishna Dev of 
the American Institute for Indian Stu- 
dies, Ramnagar (Varanasi). They clas- 
I sified the photographs on the basis of 
the pattern of carvings on the pillars. 
The pillars at the head of the grave 
and tne pillar at Faizabad Cantonment 
formed one set. The pillars at the 
Lucknow Museum were kept in a 
separate set, and the Jambdwar pillar 
in the Janmasthan temple formed a 
third category. The two experts 
agreed that the pattern of carvings on 



SUNMV 6*12 JtniMry 1901 


the pillars in the first set can be dated 
to ine period between the late ninth 
and early eleventh century AD. They 
a^m^d that the carvings on the pillars 
Was representative of the art of sculp- 
tvpe developed in Gaya during the 
time of the Senas. 

Even if we grant that material from 
the previously destroyed temples was 
used in the construction of the Babri 
mosque, it is difficult to say, in the 
absence of any evidence, that the 
material was of the Ramjanmabhoomi 
temple. 

The Babri Masjid has three inscrip- 
tions in Persian, two outside and one 
inside the mosque. The style of cal- 
ligraphy in each of the three inscrip- 
tions is different. 

The inscription inside the mosque is 
more important both for its content 
and for the position that it occupies. 
The tablet with the inscription is just 
above the pulpit. The content of the | 
couplets were translated by A.S. Be- 
veridge. We reproduce her transla- 
tion: 

(i) ‘By the order of the Emperor 
Babur whose justice is an edi- 
fice reaching up to the very 
heights of the heavens’; 

(ii) ‘The good hearted Mir Baqi 
built this alighting place of 
angels’; 


(iii) ‘May his goodness last forever!’ 
[The year of the building was 
935 AH or 1529 AD] 

It was on the basis of these inscrip- 
tions that Beveridge was ready to be- 
lieve that Babur had ordered Mir Baqi 
to construct the mosque in Ayodhya. 
However, she deals with the inscrip- 
tions, not in the main body of the 
book, but in the appendices, where 
she expresses doubt by saying that in 
his memoirs, Babur does not record 
the completion of the mosque. 

Given that no mention is available 
in the Babur Nama, it is possible that 
Mir Baqi, the viceroy of Babur in 
Ayudhya might have either con- 
structed the mosque or taken over an 
old mosque and dedicated it to Babur, 
according to the traditions of the time. 
The tradition was an ancient one. It 
established that a conqueror by virtue 
of his victory in war became the lord 
of all land and the structures on it. As 
such, he could either destroy buildings 
that glorified the previous regime or 
construct a new structure to glorify his 
own reign. The geographical location 
of the mosque and the nature of 
Babur’s conquest suggested that an 
existing mosque could have been re- 
paired and re-dedicated to the 
emperor. 

77 


BOOK EXTRACT 


The style of calligraphy in the in- 
scriptions of the Babri Masjid also 
raises serious doubts about whether 
Babur constructed the mosque. The 
style in the inscription on the outside, 
just above the entrance of the mos- 
que, is thick-set. This does not con- 
form to the style of calligraphy preva- 


lent in the sixteenth century but is 
more representative of the nineteenth 
century style of calligraphy. The in- 
scription in the inside of the mosque, 
just above the pulpit, though finer and 
sharper, is close-set. This style of cal- 
ligraphy is again representative of the 
nineteenth century. There is a strong 
possibility that the stone inscriptions 
were put up at a later stage to streng- 
then the claim that Babur had actually 
constructed the mosque. 

T he style of architecture of the Bab- 
ri Masjid raises doubts regarding 
the contention that Babur had the 
mosque constructed in 1528. The mos- 
que is an ugly structure in the typical 
style of architecture of Jaunpur. In 
fact, the Babri Masjid if viewed from 
the west side (the back) appears iden- 
tical to the Attala Masjid in Jaunpur. 
The Attala Masjid was constructed by 
the Sharqi Sultans. The upholders of 
the Ramjanmabhoomi temple theory 
contend that as in Babur's mosque a 
wooden beam has been used just be- 
low the arch, it clearly shows that the 


mosque was constructed on the ruins 
of the temple. They do not realise that 
the use of a wooden beam to support 
the arch was typical of the buildings of 
the Sharqi Sultans of Jaunpur. This 
was a natural phenomenon because 
most of the buildings of the Sharqis 
were constructed exclusively by Indian 


masons from indigenous resources. ln-| 
dian masons who were far away from 
Delhi had not mastered the art of 
making a perfect arch. 

The dome of the mosque also raises 
questions regarding the dale of the 
construction of the building. By the 
sixteenth century, the art of making a 
symmetrical dome had been mastered. 
In fact, the buildings of the sixteenth 
century no longer used beams to sup- 
port arches, nor were their domes 
semi-circular. Some buildings from 
the fifteenth century have perfect 
arches and symmetrical domes. The 
Babri Masjid lacks the architectural 
finesse of the sixteenth century. 

The Babri Masjid has another in- 
congruous feature. When the area of 
the mosque was divided in the 
nineteenth century, the ea.stern front 
was opened for the platform marking 
the birthplace of Ram and the eastern 
door was closed to the Muslims. The 
Muslims who came to offer namaz at 
the mosque entered from the north 
gate. The northern outer wall and the 
gate do not appear as old as the Babri 


Masjid. The outer wall on the north- 
ern side is well-plastered and has a 
striking emblem engraved at the top of 
the north gate. The emblem has two 
lions on either side with a peacock 
standing between them. The lions in a 
jumping position, with their tails 
curled. The lions-and-peacock 
emblem is found on several buildings 
in Ayodhya. The other common 
emblem in Ayodhya is that of two 
fishes on cither side above the main 
entrances of buildings. This is the 
emblem of the Nawabs of Avadh, 
whose sovereignty it attests. It is 
therefore probable that the outer wall 
on the north side with the emblem of 
the lions and peacock is a later addi- 
tion. 

The ugly building called the Babri 
Masjid is incongruous in the city. 
While the old walled city has several 
constructions that can be dated to the 
eighteenth century, the Babri Masjid 
is the only one that stands out as an 
ancient structure. There is another 
mosque near the Swargaddwar which 
is in ruins. It seems a construction of 
the later Mughal period. Scanty his- 
torical evidence does not allow us to 
date the construction of the Babri 
Masfid but architectural design does 
help us to conclude that the mosque 
belongs to a period before Babur. His- 
torical evidence docs not show that 
Babur came to Ayodhya and therefore 
the charge that he destroyed the Ram- 
janmabhoomi temple does not arise. 
In fact, the contention that the Ram- 
janmabhoomi temple was at the spot 
of the Babri Masjid is itself doubtful. 



7719 Dttputmi Mosque: A hMorkml Inquiry tv SuthU 
Srivastava. Publlahed by Vlataar PubNcaUona. 
Price: Ra 56 



78 


SUNDAY 6-12 Januaiy 1901 




CONTROVERSY 


The trouble with Sat hyu 

Controversy surrounds yet another tele-serial 


D irector M.S. Sathyu's troubles 
with Doordarshan never seem 
to end. While his tele-film 
Kayar (Rope) lies in Mandi House, 
gathering dust, his latest serial, Antim 
Raja, has also run into trouble — 
thanks to angry accusations from the 
powerful Lingayat community in Kar- 
nataka, alleging that the serial de- 
famed it. 

Scheduled to go on screen on 6 De- 
cember, 1990, the serial — based on 
Jnanpith award-winner Dr Masii 
Venkatesh Iyengar’s novel, Chikka 
Veera Rajendra— did not appear in its 
prime-time slot on the national hook- 
up. And the Lingayats rejoiced, claim- 
ing credit for the suppression of the 
serial. 

For Sathyu, the protests by the 
Lingayats (Veerashaivas) were cause 
for irritation. “What are they protest- 
ing about, anyw'ay? The serial in no 
way puts down the Lingayats, ’ he told 
Sunday. 

Asked how he felt about the Mandi 
House mandarins spccumbing to the 
chorus of protests from the 
Veerashaivas, Sathyu retorted: “Non- 
sense! The serial was not withdrawn. 
It was not shown on 6 December as we 
had requested that it be rescheduled.” 
The director, who achieved fame with 
Garam Hawa, maintained that he had 
asked for the telecast to be put off for 
two more months since only four epi- 
sodes of Antim Raja were ready. 

Kayar is still awaiting the nod of 
new information and broadcasting 
minister, Subodh Kant Sahay. It was 
Karnataka's religious leaders and 
some of its politicians who supported 
the outcry against Antim Raja. 

Joining hands with them was Basa- 
varaj Patil Anwari, the central minis- 
ter of state for steels and mines, also a 
Lingayat. Anwari was said to have 
impressed upon his colleague, Sahay, 
that the serial would gravely hurt the 
sentiments of the Veerashaivas and 
should, hence, be withdrawn. 

But what is it about the Jnanpith 
award-winning novel that offends the 
Lingayats so much? The only thing 
that they might find objectionable is 
that the central character of the book 
happens to be a Veerashaiva. 

Tne late Masti had collected the 


material on the cruel Kodagu ruler 
when he was posted to Coorg as a civil 
servant. Though his novel drew exten- 
sively upon a Coorg work titled Pat- 
tole Palane, Masti had, in the fore- 
word, said that the book was not 
based on authentic historical facts. 

The novel relates how the Kodagu 
kingdom fell to the British in 1834 
owing to the incompetence of its ruler. 
The story has been spiced with tales of 
palace intrigue and also describes the 
immorality of the central character. 
Besides stating that he was a Lingayat. 


and Sathyu is undoubtedly a good 
director. But there are certain scenes 
in the book which are very awkward 
for the Lingayats. In parts, it is also 
derogatory of Basavanna (the 12th 
century social reformer who founded 
Veerashaivism).” 

The Veerashaivas have now deman- 
ded that a panel be constituted with a 
prominent Lingayat on the committee 
to screen Antim Raja before telecast. 
“If they cut out the objectionable por- 
tions and show it, we have no prob- 
lems," says Shanta.Murthy. “Sanjay 




the book does not dwell on caste or 
seek to deride religious sentiments. 

Masti — who died a few years ago — 
too had to face flak over the book. 
When the Jnanpith panel selected 
Masti for the award, the Veerashaivas 
had protested. But the doughty, 90- 
year-old writer had insisted that the 
citation mention that the award was 
for his controversial book and not only 
for a generalised contribution to liter- 
ature. He also had a dramatised ver- 
sion of the novel staged. 

Obviously, the Lingayat leaders do 
not agree with the Jnanpith panel. 
“The book is an insult to the 
Veerashaivas,” says K.P.Shanta 
Murthy, president of the Veerashaiva 
Mahasabha. H.Thipperudraswamy, 
writer and president of the Akhila 
Bharata Sharana Sahitya Parishat, 
says, “It was uncalled for Sathyu to 
have chosen this particular novel to 
make a serial,” adding “We have im- 
mense respect for Masti as a writer 


A seme from 4nflrn 
Rmja (left) and (above) 
M.S. Sathyu: 
never-ending problems 


Khan showed the Mysore Wodeyar 
kings as buffoons in fipu Sultan and 
now Sathyu wants to show the Ling- 
ayat king as a scoundrel,” he com- 
plains. 

Jaji Mandanna, former president of 
the Kodava Samaja — the biggest orga- 
nisation of the Coorgs — has insisted in 
a letter to Sahay that Antim Raja be 
shown, saying “Chikka Veera was in- 
deed a cruel ruler... Masti was not a 
fool to write something which was not 
true.” She points out that if Doordar- 
shan has withdrawn the serial after 
having approved it at first, it was 
wholly unfair. 

And, for Sathyu, it would mean a 
year’s hard work down the Mandi 
House drain. Even if Lingayat tem- 
pers cool off, there is likely to be a 
fresh bout of protests when Sathyu 
resumes shooting in Mysore from 
February. That is, if Doordarshan 
gives the director the go-ahead • 
Giifff Lank 0 §h/Bangalore 


•UNDAY A-12 Jmry 19B1 



TELEVISION 


Prime-time 

scramble 

Ministries jockey for TV advertising spots 


L ife for people in India may be full 
of problems. But the government 
is, equally, packed with people 
who think Doordarshan can help to 
solve them. Hence, the rush for what 
can be best described as social- 
consciousness slots, by the various 
ministries of the Government of India. 
In fact, such is the demand for televi- 
sion spots that the ministry of informa- 
tion and broadcasting is having to 
rethink its policy of handing out free 
telecast-time to government 
claimants. 

Says a senior official of that minis- 
try, “Every minister thinks his minis- 
try is the most important, and TV is 
only for him.’' Apart from health and 
family welfare, which, till recently, 
cornered most of the slots promoting 
social awareness, the ministries of pet- 
roleum, energy and environment, and 
the armed forces, are all demanding 
time for getting their own messages 
across. 

Doordarshan’s own recent contribu- 
tion has been the three-minute tales of 


Hindu-Muslim amity, called ‘quick- 
ies’. Its deputy director-general, A.S. 
Grewal, says the telecast of these com- 
menced in the weeks before the kar 
seva was scheduled to get underway in 
Ayodhya, to help defuse the tension 
between the two communities. 

The feedback from a cursory survey 
by Doordarshan’s audience research 
unit was that in Delhi, more Muslims 
(86 per cent of those surveyed) than 
Hindus (77 per cent) recall these 
shorts, more Muslims than Hindus 
think they will help to diffuse the mes^s 
sage of communal harmony. 

With competing claims, the average, | 
of six minutes of daily telecast time 
reserved for such messages, no longer 
suffices. And there is a new complica- 
tion: once Doordarshan and All-India 
Radio become a corporation, Jh^ 
cannot continue to hand out free trW8^ 
to all comers. Inter-departmental^ 
meetings on the subject have been 
inconclusive. Grewal expresses Door- 
darshan's point of view when he says 
that if the ministries can spend money 


Family planning: not any one depariment’s baby 



preparing publicity material which no- 
Dody reads, they can spend a bit on 
telecast time. “We will not charge 
commercial rates — concessional rates 
will have to be devised. Even a cor- 
poration has social obligations.’’ 

But how concessional can the rates 
be when a one-minute spot at 9 pm 
costs Rs 4.8 lakhs? Most ministries 
protest that the rates would inflate 
their media budget quite wildly. Fami- 
ly planning, for instance, has an 
annual budget of Rs 16.5 crores to 
cover all media. If the department had 
to pay for its TV spots, these would 
exhaust its entire budget. Expressing 
the ministry’s view on the matter, a 
director says, “The general view is 
that population control is not any one 
department’s responsibility.” 

The most likely solution would be a 
budgetary exercise which would re- 
flect the cost of TV spots for the minis- 
try concerned. An additional secretary 
in the ministry of information and 
broadcasting is of the opinion that 
ministries “neither articulate their 
communication needs properly, nor 
budget for them. The planning com- 
mission and the ministry of finance 
will have to take a view on this be- 
cause somebody will have to pay for it. 
Even if it costs nothing to telecast, it is 
income foregone.” 

In the wake of the Gulf crisis, a 
joint secretary in the ministry of pet- 
roleum takes a righteous stance: 
“Doordarshan has definite social 
obligations. Indian railways meets its 
obligations by runniTig trains in those 
areas where it is uneconomic to run. 
Why must we now introduce a new 
dimension, which is the price of televi- 
sion time? Television should have the 
correct approach. The fuel energy cri- 
sis is not tne baby of just the ministry. 
The entire nation is affected.” 

Having the “correct approach”, 
doubtless, means letting the status quo 
prevail. 

D oordarshan’s public interest 
efforts began in 1986, with a cam- 
paign that emphasised the need for 
immunisation, went on to concern it- 
self with the status of the girl child and 
finally tackled the subject of family 
planning directly. Then came the 
Nehru centenary year, and the small 
screen blazed with the yuppie patriot- 
ism of the Rajiv era. The Torch Of 
Freedom and Mile sur...v/eTe great 
hits with the urban middle class but 
there is no real feedback on whether 
the country’s vast rural population re- 
lated to them. 


80 


•UNDAY »-12 January 1M1 






With Rajiv’s departure and the end 
of the centenary year, these spots have 
become few and far between. Others 
have, however, rushed in to take their 
place. On Sunday mornings, we are 
treated to lectures on the importance 
of washing one’s hands, civic sense 
and courtesy. And all this at a time 
when ten seconds of advertising time 
costs Rs 50,000! 

The prevailing irony, of course, is 
that the Government of India has no 
serious desire to learn how much of 
the message is actually going home. 
Doordarshan does only the occasional 
impact-study. In 1987, it undertook a 
survey in rural UP and Haryana to 
assess the reaction to the programmes 
on child spacing, immunisation and 
birth control. Recall was high, says the 
director of audience research, but get- 
ting necessary supplies across to the 
primary health centres had not match- 
ed requirement. “We were telling 
them about immunisation, but the 
health centres did not have the vac- 
cines. If this kind of logistical support 
is missing, the credibility of the 
medium is very badly affected.” 

Rami Chhabra, journalist and fami- 
ly pfanning activist, was the one who 
pioneered .the family planning cam- 



Tbrch for freedom: yufipte |Mt^^ 


paign bn Doordarshan. But, she says, 
the campaign floundered on the admi- 
nistrative failures of health depart- 
ments, which failed to ensure that con- 
traceptives were actually available. 
Also, the nine o’clock staple of nearly 
four years has given way to three- 
minute messages on fuel economy or 
communal harmony, though Doordar- 
shan officials do not bemoan the 
change, believing the older campaign 
to have lost its impact. A petroleum 
ministry official pitching for the 9 pm 
slot says, “Their spots were creating a 
dread in the public mind. They should 
do impact surveys as well as desirabil- 
ity-of-continuance surveys." 

The petrol-saving spots, a direct re- 
sponse to events in the Gulf, are 
aimed at truck drivers. But how does 
the truck driver get the message on the 
road? They, watch it when they stop 
for a meal, says a petroleum official 
minding the campaign. “All the dhabas 
have TV sets now." His ministry will 
eventually conduct an impact survey. 

Judging from the premium on 
prime-time, it is an easy guess that the 
ministerial scramble for the slots will 
continue. Regardless of what the sur- 
veys reveal. • 




i2 


•UNDAVe-ia Jmuwy 1W1 




Kalka 

MLA 

Rajesh Khanna takes the plunge 

O ld stars don’t die. They just enter politics. 

Think about it. Sunil Dutt relaunched him- 
self as a successful MP once his career as a 
hero was at an end. Shatriighan Sinha 
keeps himself in the news by making poli- 
tical pronouncements now that the roles have dried up. 
Shabana Azmi couldn't attract two flies to the box- 
office but she has found a new credibility as an activist 
for slum-dwellers/cnvironmentalists/CPI(M) campaig- 
ners/Muslim women (strike out as applicable to the 
flavour of the month). 

Contrast this with Amitabh Bachchan, who entered 
politics when his film popularity was at its peak. Within 
two years his career had gone to the toilet and it only 
shows signs of reviving now that he has renounced 
politics. 

The principle has been re-established time and again. 
No successful star can make it in politics. But if your 
career is in trouble already, then politics is an extreme- 
ly attractive way of ensuring that you remain in the 
public eye. 

So, it was not entirely surprising that Rajesh Khanna 
has decided to go the way of Sunil Dutt, Shatrughan 
Sinha, Shabana et at. Last week he told the Delhi Press 
Club that he would go further than any of his predeces- 
sors and throw himself into politics full-time. Whcieas 
the others still pretend that they have careers, Khanna 
suggested that he would dispense with this sham and 
stop claiming to be an in-demand star. 

IT SHOULD have been a dramatic announcement. 
Why then did everybody have a strange feeling of deja 
vu? Largely, one suspects because Khanna has tried a 
variation of this stunt before. 

In 1986, he was pul up by a small-time Bombay 
Congressman called Moti Daryanani as the great white- 
clad hope of the ruling party. Khanna duly appeared at 
public gatherings in khadi, flashed his crinkly-eyed 
smile and sucked his paunch in for the photographers. 
But it was all to no avail. 

The failure was not Khanna ’s alone. Daryanani tried 
to use him to oust the powerful, media-savvy Congress 
boss of Bombay, Murli Deora. But neither Khanna nor 
Daryanani had the clout to take on Deora, who brag- 
ged to the press, “It will be 20 years before Rajesh 
Khanna will be ready to take my place.” 

Daryanani’s overweening ambition was com- 
plemented by Khanna’s hubris. Imagining that he could 
be the Congress’ next Amitabh Bachchan, he spread 
stories to the effect that he was now the party's main 
man. It was naive to believe that Rajiv would clasp to 
his bosom a man who went around bad-mouthing his 


best friend. And Khanna’s aspirations soon seemed like 
some tacky remake of Aaj Ka MLA (which was pretty 
tacky to begin with). 

After the fiasco of the Bengal elections in 1987 
(Khanna campaigned, predicted great things and 
watched amazed as the Congress went down to a humi- 
liating defeat), he has kept a relatively low political 
profile. The film press loyally reported that Rajiv Gan- 
dhi had offered him “any seat he wanted” at the last 
general election, but that Khanna turned him down 
C‘Sir, I cannot do justice to both films and my duties as 
an MP”). If this was true, then it remained a well-kept 
secret in Delhi's political circles where the star’s 
attempts to campaign for the Congress were regarded 
as lacking the power and flair of Shatrughan Sinha's 
efforts for the other side. 

NOW, KHANNA is ready to try again. Last week, at 
the Delhi Press Club he gravely pondered over every 
question thrown at him by.an irreverent crowd before 
answering solemnly on behalf of the Congress(I). 
(Sample: “Why is your party supporting this govern- 
ment?” “Well, in the interests of the stability of the 
nation, we have to take certain steps.”) 


While it is easy to be cynicai 
about a paunchy poseur in khadi,' 
perhaps somewhere under that 
tight-fitting khadi kurta iurks a 
heart of goid. And perhaps, 
Khanna wili prove his detractors 
wrong 


While it is easy to be cynical about a paunchy poseur 
in khadi, perhaps he deserves to be given a chance. 
After all, for every Raj Babbar who has disgraced both 
films and politics, there is a Sunil Dutt who has be- 
haved with restraint and dignit} . Moreover, whatever 
Khanna's pretensions, can he really be much worse 
than the average Congress politician? 

At present, the politicos don't think that he will get 
very far in his political career. As a jaded ex-superstar, 
he has only a tenuous link with reality and with his 
popularity on the skids, seems to be losing his crowd- 
pleasing ability. Both these need not be overwhelming 
disqualifications m the mad, mad world of Indian poli- 
tics, and perhaps the pols are wrong. 

But what worries many people is that he has made his 
career-move without displaying any genuine concern 
for the people of India. It is almost as if he sees national 
politics as being no more than an extension of Indian 
Motion Picture Producers Association politics. Having 
earned a reputation as the shrewdest politician in the 
film industry, he now wants to try his hand at the real 
thing. 

Perhaps this characterisation is unfair. Perhaps 
somewhere under that tight-fitting khadi kurta lurks a 
heart of gold. And perhaps, Khanna will prove his 
detractors wrong. 

In a year or so, we will know. • 


•UNDlAY»-12Jwii«ry1991 


83 



— —^ IVIEDIA MUSiNCS fM^^^— 

V. GANGADHAR 

Reviews that bore 


The hackneyed efforts of the writers fail to capture interest 


Sunday newspapers 
are mushrooming ail 
over the country. 
The existing news- 
papers are also com- 
ing out with volumi- 
nous Sunday sections 
loaded with colour ads. And if one 
goes by quantity, there is enough and 
more to read for all the family mem- 
bers. 



Yet, the book pages of the Sunday 
papers continue to disappoint. The 
books chosen for review are dull, the 
writing is duller and prosaic. Week 
after week, we have to make do with 
the same old tired names, producing 
the same old tired stuff, that too at a 
time when any number of interesting 
books are being published all over the 
world. Where have all the good re- 
views gone? 

The best book page in recent years 
was carried by The Sunday Observer. 
No, not the present one, but when it 
was being edited by Vinod Mehta. 
First, there was variety. Mehta was no 
intellectual snob and The Observer 
regularly carried reviews of books on 
cricket and other sports, crime and 
mystery and biographies of all kinds of 
interesting people. 


The non-political section of The 
Sunday Observer under Vinod Mehta 
was the most readable material on 
Sundays and contributed a lot to the 
paper’s popularity. An entire page, 
sometimes even two, were devoted to 
books. Mehta was quick to find out if 
a writer knew his subject and was cap- 
able of delivering the goods. And once 
you were ‘in’, you could work without 
^hassles and feel proud of having con- 
tributed something to an outstanding 
books page. 

Looking at the reviews in some of 
the papers, I wonder why the focus is 
so much on rural development, Pun- 
jab, political Xhtovy, Sarvodaya move- 
ment and so on. These themes are 
generally covered in detail in the news 
sections of the papers. The books sel- 
dom have anything new to say and 
that makes them all the more dull. 

Journalists in charge of the book 
pages should love books. Some of 


them, I feel, fear that their efforts 
should not be termed flippant, and 
hence pack their pages with unread- 
able reviews of unreadable books, 
hoping for the stamp of ‘intellectual 
treatment’. Perhaps, that is why one 
finds so few books on sports, crime 
and cinema. 

The people who handle books are 
also often overworked and have no 



In the non-political section of The 
Sunday Observer under Vinod 
Mehta, an entire page, sometimes 
even two, were devoted to books. 
Mehta was quick to find out if a 
writer knew his subject and was 
capable of delivering the goods 


time to think, to look around for in- 
teresting books and suitable writers. 
The overall approach has become ster- 
otyped. Political books and books on 
freedom struggle always go to Mr X; 
books on Sikhism to Mr Y ; those on 
Punjab to Mr Z and so on. And then 
there are friends to oblige. 

The Telegraph's book page on Fri- 
days despite a stress on left movement 
and agrarian reforms, is still pretty 
good. In The Times of India's Sunday 
review, one has to search for the 
review, or even the books page 
among all those huge colour ads for 
ice cream, shoes and jewellery. 


The Times, of course, regularly fea- 
tures book reviews by Sham Lai and 
more recently Arvind Das and a host 
of others on its edit page. But, alas, 
these are not for ordinary mortals. I 
have lost count of books reviewed by 
Mr. Sham Lai, originating in Poland 
smuggled out to Iceland. translated in 
Finland and marketed in Holland! 

Partisan approach 


Dr Ashok Mitra always has a pained 
expression on his face. This is not very 
difficult to explain. Dr Mitra does not 
like many things Indian, starting with 
the Gandhi family. 

‘An angry old man’. Dr Mitra is 
considerably upset at the way things 
are allowed to run and does not mince 
words while expressing his feelings. 
Recently, he devoted an entire com- 
umn to the small-mindedness of the 
Indian mind. No, this had nothing to 
do with Rajiv Gandhi's support to 
Chandra Shekhar or the decision to 
ask for a loan from the International 
Monetary Fund. Dr Mitra who once 
covered a test match for The Tele- 
graph was quite upset that spectators 
who came to watch the third one-day 
international against Sri Lanka at Goa 
did not appreciate enough the islan- 
ders’ victory in the match. 

The 20,0(K)-strong crowd which had 
come to watch the match with high 
hopes of an Indian clean sweep had 
dwindled to half its size as the Sri 
Lankans marched steadily towards 
victory. The chief architect of the 
Lankan victory, Aravinda De Silva, 
completed a fine fifty. Writes Ashok 
Mitra: “The patriotic crowd, was 
however, listless. An unusual thing 
took place when De Silva completed 
his half century. It is the standard 
convention wherever cricket is played 
that once a batsman scores a century 
or a half-century, he is applauded by 
the spectators, and, courtesy begetting 
courtesy, that batsman responds by 
raising his bat. On that Saturday after- 
noon at Margao, De Silva did not have 
any occasion to raise his bat. The pat- 
riotic Indian crowd would not conde- 
scend to clap. Why should Indians, 


64 


SUNDAY 6-12 Januaiy 1961 







carrying the burden of a civilisation 
which goes beyond 5,000 years, bother 
to acknowledge the performance of a 
batsman belonging to the opposite, 
side, more so when that side was 
handing down a defeat to our team?*' 

Dr Mitra, certainly has a point. But 
why restrict his censure only to the 
spectators? Watching the telecast of 
tne match, I was appalled at the parti- 
san approach of commentators, 
Narottam Puri and Fefdun de Vitre, 
both of them no greenhorns at the job. 

Puri was the worst culprit. Time and 
again he mentioned that Azhar had 
done right by choosing to bat first on 
an unpredictable wicket. He prophe- 
sised that the wicket would deteriorate 
steadily and that the experienced Indi- 


ments, one feels they are, as usual, a 
bit too prickly. It is a bit too much to 
conclude that the “no-claps-for-De- 
Silva-affair will add spice to the 
already existing prejudice against us: 
the Indians, the big brothers, notwith- 
standing the ancient civilisation they 
constantly boast of, behave, it will be 
said, like louts, they lack even the 
most elementary manners.” 

Dr Mitra obviously, had not watch- 
ed cricket matches in Bombay or Mad- 
ras where spectators are quick to 
appreciate the g(X)d performances of 
touring teams. Who can forget the 
wonderful reception given to Pakistan 
skipper, Asif Iqbal, when he came out 
to bat on his last test innings before a 
sell-out Eden Garden crowd? 



not restrict themselves only to singles. 
They always played doubles as well as 
mixed doubles. The best way to play 
in Wimbledon was try and win the 
earlier matches as quickly as possible 
and reserve energy for the quar- 
ter-finals onwards. 

Sportstar also managed to have a 
chat with John Dewes who was on a 
visit to India. Dewes (Cambridge uni- 
versity, Middlesex and England) was a 
not-very-successful opening batsman 
during the 1950’s who once figured in 
a 343-run opening partnership against 
the visiting West Indians during 1950. 

But Dewes had an unhappy test 
baptism against the 1948 Australians. 
Keith Miller always got him out. 
Those were the days when helmets 



Dr Ashok Mitra— “an angry old 
man”-was considerably upset that 
the Indian spectators who came to 
watch the third one-day 
international against Sri Lanka at 
Goa did not appreciate the 
islanders’ victory 


an spinners, particularly Arshad 
Ayub, would run through the Sri 
Lankans. ‘Freddieboy’ joined in with 
enthusiasm, expressing eagerness at 
the introduction of Ayub. 

Nothing like this happened. The In- 
dian spinners made no impact and the 
Sri Lankans scored freely off Ayub. 
Puri and ‘Freddieboy’ began to change 
their tune. The wicket, claimed Puri, 
had suddenly improved and made no 
mention of Azhar 's sagacity. Finally, 
as the Lankans were on the verge of 
victory, Puri mentioned it was possible 
that India, having already won the 
series, were taking things a bit easy! 

Coming back to Dr Mitra’s com- 


OMisgoM 


Be it films or sport, I hve a soft 
corner for the golden oldies. So 1 was 
delighted when a receni issue of Sport- 
star magazine carried an interview 
with Frank Sedgman, the Australian 
tennis star of the 1950’s. Sedgman was 
in Madras as head of the international 
tennis club of Australia. 

He made a good copy too. Tennis 
players in those days were more of 
entertainers, but there was still a lot of 
rivaliy and healthy competition 
among them. Unlike today's stars, 
Sedgman and his fellow players did 


were unknown and Dewes went out to 
face Lindwall and Co, with heavy 
towels wrapped around the body 
under the shirt! 

While still on the subject of sports, 
it is sad that Mudar Patherya has quit 
Sportsworld to make his mark in the 
share market. Young in age, but rich 
in writing ability and style, Patherya 
covered cricket with distinction, never 
resorting to cliches. And if at times, he 
seemed a bit obsessed with Imran 
Khan, it cannot be denied that the 
Great Khan always makes a good 
copy! Good luck to you Mudar and 
may the bulls and bears go along with 
you. • 


tUlillAV»-12 JiniMry 1991 





Innovation on show 

Premier artist Satish Gujral triumphs again with his latest exhibition 


anything characterises Satish 
Gujral best it is an insistence on 
innovation, and, of course, his 
success. This fact was highlighted once 
again, by his latest endeavour — Iconic 
Paintings and Architecture— an ex- 
hibition at the Birla Academy of Art 
and Culture, Calcutta (9-28 Decem- 
ber, 1990). 

The exhibition, the second of a 
series, aroused much enthusiasm 
among art connoisseurs and laymen 


imaginative bent of mind, the viewer 
could weave some logic out of the 
indistinct sense impressions. 

Certainly, they sold soon enough. 
The exhibits, 23 icons and five 
architectural masterpieces, went for 
prices ranging from Rs 35,(K)() to Rs 
60,000, the buyers including the 
Ambassador of Brazil and the Birlas 
among others. 

But the exhibits did much more 
than prove the saleability of Gujrars 


quipped, “strange, very strange...” 

Most of them did not understand 
the works, but they did leave a deep 
and indefinable impression on their 
souls. And that's what great art always 
does. 

Meaning was not important. What 
emerged from the charred wood and 
padded leather was a symbol potent 
enough to embody any concept — be it 
a picture of waste and desolation or 
the ashes of hope from which the 
Phoenix may rise. 

“The medium is not important, 
what is important is the expression,” 
observes Gujral and adds, “the 
moment art becomes a slave to 
medium, it ceases to be art.” In 
younger days, says the artist, he had 
paid more attention to his materials 
but now all that has changed. Gujral 
has come to realise that art is inherent 
in any medium. The only thing that an 
artist could do was to weave order out 
of chaos. 

But Gujral's present success did not 
come easy. Rendered deaf in 
childhood, his was a struggle to 
overcome all odds. After mastering 
several crafts at the Mayo School of 
Arts in Lahore, he specialised in 
painting and carving at the J.J. School 
of Arts in Bombay. And to top 
everything, was nominated by Mex- 
ican poet and Nobel laureate Octavio 
Paz to receive a scholarship to learn 
muralism abroad. From then on 
Gujral has not ceased to surprise. 

“I don’t know if I will have the 
opportunity to hold another exhibi- 
tion, but 1 am positive that if I do, it 
will be different from what you’ve 
seen before,” says the beaming artist. 

And he is not far from the truth. In 
India’s art scenario Gujral stands 
apart from the gamut of traditional 
artists. On one side he has the modem 
urge to explore new horizons of 
expression, and on the other, the 
primitive instinct of the caveman 
drawing fire from stone. 

As his exhibition proves, Satish 
Gujral has broken down the 
boundaries between painting, 
architecture and sculpture. Hts art 
forgets pattern and nosedives into 
confusion. The result? The triumph of 
art over meaning and form. • 

Sowwv Mukherjee/Cahuita 



alike. It was the first time Gujral, or 
for that matter anyone, was combining 
sculpture, architecture and painting. 
And the result was quite devastating. 

Exploring the Ganapati theme, the 
icons were made from charred wood 
and leather. The artist created a 
night-black backdrop on which he 
sprinkled gold dust and beads of 
different colours to achieve a 
distinctive effect. Although disting- 
uishing the features of Lord Ganesh 
required a sharp eye and an 


The recent exhibition of GulraPs 
icons on the Ganapati theme was 
yet another landmark in Indian 
art 

work. They reinforced once again the 
artist’s reluctance to be restricted to 
any one medium, and his mastery of 
such diverse art forms as architecture, 
sculpture, painting and the mural 
technique. 

Each creation of Gujral’s acts like a 
catalyst, triggering a reaction and 
urging one to draw one’s own 
conclusions. What argues his case 
further is that one can interpret him in 
diverse ways. For instance, a lady 
standing awe-struck before one of his 
icons, said: “I don’t know much about 
this. But I came to find out what it was 
like... it fills me with a sense of 
uneasiness. It’s amazingly bewilder- 
ing.” Or the casual foreign visitor who 


86 


•UNDAV»-12Jmjvy1991 




ODDS AND TRENDS 


Bravo Incoda! 

■ Art will soon go 
underground. No, not to be 
buried in the earth, but to 
enlighten and please Metro 
commuters in Calcutta. 

The project launched by 
The Incoda Media 
Services, was 
conceptualised by S.N. 
Dutta, to “promote the 
works of local artists, 
specially to unearth hidden 
talents from among those 
who cannot on their own 
exhibit their creative works 
to the general public”. 


original to the public for 
one year. A total of 600 
original paintings will find a 

E lace in the gallery and will 
e awarded prizes. And 
even put up for sale if the 
artist so desires. 

The unique plan is bound 
to delight the 


culture-conscious 
Calcuttans in the 
17-minutes run between 
terminals. And artists can 
participate free of cost. 

With Incoda initiating 
this novel scheme, one can 
only hope that artists all 
over India will give them 





The Metro Mobile Art 
Gallery, unparalleled in the 
world, will provide panels 
for young artists within the 
underground trains to 
present their works in the 


SEPARATED AT BIRTH? 


PRIZE RS 200 FOR CONTRIBUTIONS 



Usha Uthup 


Sukanya Shankar 


the required support and 
encouragement. 

Crab care 

■ So, are crabs the answer? 
According to the journal 
Wildlife Today, yes. 

Researchers believe that 
our crustacean friends can 
cure or immunise people 
affected by the dreaded 
disease, AIDS. 

But not all crabs. Only a 
certain non-edible species 
found in abundance in 
Orissa’s Chandipur area is 
believed to work the 
wonder. The serum drawn 
from these creatures is 
being used to manufacture 
drugs for the treatment of 
sexually transmitted 
diseases including AIDS. 

Called Ram, Laxman or 
Sita crabs by the locals, the 
mythical connotations have 
prevented men from eating 
them — or so researchers 
believe. 

But once one conquers 
one’s squeamishness, they 
may well prove to be the 
divine cure. 


MILESTONES 


CREATED:A new national record in <he 90 metres 
event by Olympian Sanjay Singh, who secured 298 
points in the third Bihar State Archery Championship, 
at the Regal grounds in Jamshedpur on 21 December. 

COMPLETED: Atlaa of Hydrogeomorphological 
Maps of India, India’s first atlas containing detailed 
district-wise maps of ground-water resources. 

REVISED: The Individual and team prizes of the 

Asia Cup,by Videocon International, following 
Pakistan’s withdrawal from the tournament, reducing it 
to a three team affair. 

INSTITUTED: An International award for the 
promotion of science and technology ,worth 2,000 
pounds, by industrialist Swraj Paul, to be given away 
every year by the International Science Policy 
Foundation. 

SKSNEDtA bilateral cultural exchange programme 
(OBP), by the Zambian finance mlnlster,Qlbson 
Migal^ and SJ. Singh, ttw high commissioner of 
IndHs, mat covers visual and performing arts, mass 
^media,.tourism and ardueology, at Lusaka on 21 
'December. 


DECLARED: The Rourkela Steel PlanLas one of the 

top 50 safest companies in the world by the British 
Safety Council, and awarded a gold citation for the year 
1989. 

INAUGURATED: A function to mark the birth 
centenary of the martyr, Qanesh Shankar VidyarthI, 
by the Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar in New Delhi 
on 22 December. 

WON: Leander Paea, the Coca Cola International 
Youth Masters Tennis Championship, defeating 
Australian Joshua Eagle, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, in Melbourne, 
on 21 December. 

RE-ELECTED: Full Ahmad ,as the president of the 
Badminton Association of India, for a second term of 
four years at the annual general meeting in Jabalpur on 
22 December. 

DIED: Anil Bhsttechsrlss, one of the few 

E re-Independence era journalists in West Bengal, on 24 
iecember in Calcutta. He was 66. 

DIED: Surandra Mahanty,noted parliamentarian, 
writer and journalist, of cardiac failure in Cuttack on 21 
I December. He was 79. 




87 










KQmmm i januw^y 1991 8 y amritul 


ARIES (21 March^20 AprO) 

V*T?*iV Thisisa^oodweekforiximanGe.oottmfeiip 
B|"^9 and marns^e. Also you can ^ ahead vMh 
iB ^ plans. You are Ukely to fntd your. 

IJHJU partner by the end of the week* Avoid . 
L3H disputes with those in authority . Artists and 
writers will gain recognition . 

Good dates: 6, 8 and 12 
Lucky numbers: 2»4 and 7 
Favourable dlrectfam: North 

TAURUS (21 April— 20 May) 

Good fortune and happiness is in store for 
you. A new friendship or romance is 
indicated. Businessmen should be cautious in 
their dealings. Too mudi of optimism may be 
harmful. Your intuition will be helpful. 

Good dates: 7, 9 and 10 
Lucky numbers: 4 , 6 and 7 
Favourable direction: West 


LIBRA <21 Septemlmr^20 October) 

B a A happy week for the romantically inclined. ^ , 
I Those in service may get prmnotions. Elders , 

I ^ at home will contribute to your happiness. ^ 
t careful about your business deals. Look after /. 
|j the health of your family members. 

Good dates: 7 , 8 and 10 
Lucky numbers: 5 , 6 and 8 
Favourable ibrection; East 

SCORPIO (21 October — 20 November) 

H This is not a good week for you. On the 

professional front, your efforts will not bear 
fruits. Lawsuits and debts will cause you a 
great deal of anxiety. You are not lil^ely to 
tide oyer your problems easily. 

Good dates: 8/9 and 1 1 
Lucky numbers: L2and5 
Favourable direction: South 


GEMINI (21 May— 20 June) 

^ This week is favourable for marriage 

negotiations and love affairs. Your relatives 
wiir be a source of joy for you. Problems may 
crop up on the professional front. A 
favourable week for trekkers. 

Good dates: 6 , 7 and 9 
Lucky numbers: 2, 5 and 8 
Favourable direction: South 


SACrnARiyS (21 November — 20 December) 

I ‘*^1 Y 6 li are likely to face competition on the 
professional front. However, a secret 
\f association will be useful. Matters relating to 
K V| the hleart will make steady progress, but 
" ™ exmRse restraint. 

Gooddatesgjif 1 and 12 
Lncky numbers: 3 . 6 and 8 
Favourableilirection: East 


CiWCE R (21 June-20 July) 

This is a week of mixed fortunes for you. 
There could be financial gains, but avoid 
speculation and investment. The time is not 
ripe for romance. Businessmen should be 
careful about striking new deals. 

Good dates: 9. 10 and 12 
liucky numbers: 1 , 3 and 6 
Favonrable direction: North 


CAPRICORN (21 December— 20 January) 

This is not a good week for romance. But this 
phase will soon pass over. Concentrate on 
office, work. Be diligent and do not delay in 
t^takiag any decisions. Take care of your 
heahh. 

Good dates: 7 . TO and 12 
Lucky numbers: 4 , 6 and 8 
Favourable direction: West 


LEO (21 July— 20 August) 

S You might have to face problems, 

particularly from a member of the opposite 
sex. Exercise tact in dealing with your seniors 
and colleagues. However, matters relating to 
,the heart will make good progress. 

Good dates: 8 , 10 and 1 1 
Lucky numbers: 4, 7 and 9 
Favourable direction: South-west 


A 9 UARIUS (21 January— 20 February) 

^ The financial front looks bright . Your 

investments may yield good dividends. A 
friendship with a member of the opposite sex 
is likely to keep you busy. Women are likely 
to get presents and ornaments. 

Good dates: 6 , 9 and 10 
Lncky ntunbers: 1,4 and 6 
Favourable direction: South 


VIRGO (21 August— 20 September) 

| 8 |BB|| Love affairs may cause some anxiety. 

Professionals should do their work properly. 

I Friends and relatives will be very helpful. Try 

I « i diplomatic. Do not be extravagant. 

j Keep an eye on your health , 

‘Good dates: 10 , 11 and 12 
Lucky numbers: 2, 5 and 6 
Favourable direction: North-west 


PISCES (21 February— 20 March) 

A successful week lies ahead of you. Attend 
lo important matters first. The time is 
favourable for pushing new ideas and 
embarking on new ventures. Young people 
ittAI should make the best use of opportunities* 
Good dates: 8 , 10 and 12 
Lucky numbers: 7 , 8 and 9 
Favourable direction: North 


STAR PARTNERS: SCORPIO-TAURUS 

The Scorpio woman and the Taurus man can both be immovMy stubborn^ set in their opinions and beliefs. This 
will make their relationship stormy and unstable, where even a minor disagreement can be blown out of 

proportion. 


68 


SUNDAV6-12 JMHMry IWI 







RANDOM NOTES 



INoprafeiTsd 
Soma to 
C^wiitala 

■ The crew of the two 
special lAF Boeings 
737s (Rajdoot and Ra- 

{ 'hans) that are used by 
*rime Ministers for their 
domestic tours have 
learned that Chandra 
Shekhar's style is very 
different from Rajiv Gan- 
dhi's. 

The planes have two 
cabins reserved for the ex- 
clusive use of the PM. One 
is a sort of living room 
while the other is a kind of 
bedroom. Beyond these 
cabins are two other areas. 
One is a sort of Executive 
Class and then there's a 
small Economy Class. 

In Rajiv's day, the family 
(Sonia, Priyanka, etc.) 
would take the bedroom. 



Chandra Shekhar: man of 
the people 

Rajiv would take the living 
room, ministers would sit in 
the Executive Class and 
securitymen would get Eco- 
nomy. 

Shekhar's approach is 
more egalitarian. He 
peruses files and receives 
visitors in the living room, 
but he has opened the ex- 
clusive bedroom area up to 
his colleagues. 

Thus, the likes of Om 
Prakash Chautala now have 
free access to the most pri- 
vate part of the plane. And 
senior party colleagues 
walk in and out of the living 
room. 

The crew (from Indian 
Airlines) have now learned 
to gel used to the new 
Prime Minisler's man-of- 
the-pim)ple way of life. 


HEARD AT THE INDIA 
INTERNATIONAL CENTRE 

He has lost the right to be called 
L.K. Advanl. I am going to call 
him L.K. Khomeini in my 
columns from now on 

KULDIP NAYAR 


The truth of the 
matter 

■ Did Ram Jethmalani 
really promise to 
commit suicide if Chandra 
Shekhar became Prime 
Minister?, 

Absohiiip^ly not, says son 
Mahesh," t^le barrister and 
Sunday,, columnist. But 
surely, watched him 


saying it on video? 

Not quite, says Mahesh. 
Ram was asked what he 
would do if Chandra 
Shekhar was elected leader 
by the Janata Dal. It was in 
response to that question 
that he went into his melod- 
ramatic suicide-or-bust 
routine. 

Unfortunately, by the 
time the tape was edited, it 
was made to seem as 


CI-IECK-LIST 


^^‘^handra Swami and friends 

■ P.V. Narasimha Rao: By some accounts, the 
Swami’s candidate for the prime ministership in 1 987. 
Rao has never denied his links with the Swami but 
whenJiiS enemies suggested that he was conspiring 
withlKfiiiagainst Rapv Gandhi, he was upset enough to 
condde&resigning from the Cabinet in 1 988. 




■ Am Mohammad Khan: The Swami has fallen 
from grace in Janata Dal circles, but Arif is yet to disown 
him. His position, apparently, is that his relations with 
the godman are purely social and, therefore, of no 
concern to anybody else. But he will not be going to 
New York with him again. 

■ Indubhai Patel: is happiest at the Swami’s feet. 

A long-time devotee, he was responsible for that 
unfortunate escapade when Chand''a Swami 
introduced Chandra Shekhar to Michael Hershman, 
who either misled Shekhar or was misunderstood. 

■ Dr J.K. Jabi: The BJP's video doctor provided a 
hospital bed for the godman when he was hiding from 
Rajiv Gandhi's policemen. In those days, of course. 
Chandra Swami was A Good Person, according to the 
Express lobby. Now that he is a Naughtly chap to 
Gurumurthy et al.'the Janata Dal has disowned him. But 
Dr Jam remains his buddy. 

a Qiani Zail Singh: in the days when he was 
planning to topple f^jiv, Zail Singh counted on Chandra 
Swami to produce the dirt that would incriminate the 
Prime Minister. When no dirt was forthcoming, relations 
plumetted and the Giani claimed that the Swami had 
offered him Rs 40 crores to re-contest. Relations have 
now hit rock-bottom because of Chandra Swami's 
response to the allegation: ** What do you expect from a 
Punjabi?" 


though he was responding 
to a question about Chan- 
dra Shekhar becoming 
Prime Minister. The Jeth- 
malani position is that 
while Ram would have 
been driven to a suicidal 
frenzy, had his Janata Dal 
colleagues preferred 
Shekhar to VP, there is no 



RamlethiiialMii: no, he 
dMiitsaylt 

reason for him to take the 
plunge just because Chan- 
dra Shekhar defected and 
got Rajiv to make him PM. 

Plane-speaking 

■ Some are born pilots. 

Some become pilots. 
And some have pilots 
thrust upon them. 

No doubt, V.P. Singh 
will claim that the Bihar 
government’s state aircraft 
and its pilots have been 
forced on him by the per- 
suasive Laloo Yaday. But it 
does seem a little odd that 
after the Raja has finished 
his I-am-just-a-poor-fakir 
number in the fields of the 
cow-belt, he flies off in the 
splendour of a private 
plane. 

Other unlikely jet-setters 
on this aircraft are the Mutt 
and Jeff team of Ram Vilas 
Paswan and Sharad Yadav. 
This has caused some re- 
sentment in the Bihar 
Cabinet. Ministers have 
told Laloo that they will 
henceforth refuse to fight 
for social justice unless a 
Lear Jet is forthcoming. 

Perhaps, 40 per cent of 
the aircraft is reserved for 
Paswan and Yadav, in 
keeping with the Mandal 
principles of social justice. 


SUNDAY D-12 January 1991 









DELHI DIARY 


Collector Khan 

■ He wasn’t much of an 
aviation minister. 
But Arif Mohammad Khan 
has found a new role in the 
Opposition. At a recent 
meeting of Janata Dal lead- 
ers, the suave Khan gave a 
long speech on revitalising 
the party. Inder Gujral 
then got up and suggested 
that Arif be put in charge of 
collecting funds for the 
party. 


HEARD IN CHANAKYAPURI 

The strangest thing about this 
Ayodhya movement is that 
there is no mention of Sita. It 
represents the Semitisation of 
Hinduism. 

DR KARAN SINGH 



Arif Mohammad Khan: a 
now role 

Khan was promptly 
appointed treasurer and a 
seven-member finance 
•committee set up to assist 
him. Its members include 
Ajil Singh, I.K. Gujral, 
Madhu Dandavate and 
Arun Nehru (but, of 
course). 


Animal appeal 


■ Why is it that when 
cow-belt politicians 
fall out they bring the en- 
tire animal kingdom into 
disrepute? 

Take the strange case oi 
the two Yadavs: Laloo and 
Mulayam. 

Originally, it was 
Mulayam who had made 
iX*a]oo chief minister of 
Bihar. V.P. Singh’s candi- 
date was Ram Sundar 
Oass, but Mulayam swung 
It for his fellow-Yadav. 

Now, of course, Laloo 
likes VP while Mulayam 
prefers Chandra Shekhar, 


Midayom Singh Yadov: if 0 histumnow 

Even so, the UP Yadav has Last month, he flew into 
been restrained in his state- Mulayam’s home-ground of 
ments. Not so the Bihar Lucknow, addressed a 


Yadav. 


meeting of the party work- 


|CHECK-LIST 


The Rajiv men — where are they now 

■ G. Parlhasarathy: Finally rehabilitated by inder 
Gujral and sent Off to Cyprus as Ambassador. 


g Gopi Arora: India's man at the IMF m Washington 
Will not be recallecF—contrary to rumour. 


■ Buta Singh: in disgrace, is held responsible for 
messing up Ayodhya and nobody in the Congress pays 
him any attention. 


■ LalitSuri: Back In Delhi, his Holiday Inn 
flourishes, his health is mending and his position in the 
inner circle strengthening. 


■ Satish Sharma: Still a friend and a member of the 
Rajya Sabha. But the good Captain is staying out of the 
public eye. 


a T.N. Seshan: The Congress wanted him to get a 
better job. But chief election commissioner is not bad 
going. 


a ManI Shankar Alyar: Not really a member of the 
coterie. But still, quite indispensible in Rajiv Gandhi's 
current set-up. 


ers and dismissed his 614^^ 
buddy in vintage cow-belt 
terms. That means he cal- 
led him a dog. And when 
that wasn’t enough, he said 
he was also a jackal. 

Now, it’s Mulayam’s turn 
to think of some suitable 
animals. 


Dancing in the 
dark 

■ He's back. But he’s 
keeping a low pro- 
file. Over the last fortnight, 
F'arooq Abdullah has been 
popping up everywhere. 
He slipped into Calcutta 
virtually unnoticed. And 
then, a week later he was 
the star reveller at the din- 
ner organised by Akbar 
‘Dumpy* Ahmad, to cele- 
brate ins wedding to former 
Miss India, Naina Balsavar. 
Abdullah has shown a re- 



Farooq AbduHah: keeping e 
low profile 

markable reluctance to talk 
politics hut at the Ahmad 
festivities, he was in his ele- 
ment. No sooner had the 
mujra started than Abdul- 
lah made his way to the 
area where the dancers 
were performing. He was 
immediately surrounded by 
a bevy of groupies and 
Kashmir seemed a very 
long way away. 
















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30 


COVER STORY 


Does Rajiv want 
out? 

Arc we heading for an 
election as Congress(I) 
dissatisfaction with 
Chandra Shekhar mounts? 


VOLUME 18') ISSUE 2 RS 8 00 
AN AN AND A BAZAR PUBLICATION 

13— 19 JANUARY 1991 


LETTERS 4 
COUNTERVIEW 8 
SIGHT AND SOUND 11 
SOUTH BLOCK 15 
GOSSIP SWEET AND SOUR 19 
NEWSWATCH 43 
Dog-day knights 

BUSINESS 52 
BUSINESS DIARY 57 
NEWS 58 
MANl-TALK 64 
SPOTLIGHT 68 
TELEVISION 71 
The lunatic fringe 
VIDEO REVIEW 73 
Sporting too late 


POLITICS 


Keeping them 
posted 

Ajil Singh. Sharad Yadav 
and Ram Vilas Paswan \ie 
for the Janata Dal 
presidentship 


16 

NEWSBEAT 


Man to Mann 

Chandra Shekhar’s move to 
negotiate with the Akalis 
comes under fire. 



NEIGHBOURS 


Sex, shame and 
scandal 

Why Hussain Mohammad 
l:rshad had to go. 


48_ 

REl IGION 


Peace be with 
you 

The Dalai Lama conducts 
the Kalachakra Tantra at 
Sarnath. 



KHAAS BAAT 74 
CONTROVERSY 75 

To share, or not to 

MEDIA MUSINGS 82 
THIS INDIA 86 
SUNDAYWEEK87 
RANDOM NOTES 89 
DELHI DIARY 90 


BOOK EXTRACT 

Licence to kill 


That's how Sakuntala 
Narasimhan sees sail. 


20 

ANALYSIS 

CkKKlbye, 

ideology 

Political parties today lack 
a coherent vision of India. 



SPORTS 


The cup of woe 

India wins the lacklustre 
Asia Cup cricket 
tournament. 


Cover transparencies: 

Raiiv Gandhi by Gautam Patole and 
Chanora Shekhar by Shooter 



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Hasina (left) with Khaleda Zia: unseating Erthad 



Communal 
frenzy 

I nnocent people are being 
dragged into communal 
riots by politicians (Winter 
of hatred, 23 — 2^ Decem- 
ber). The common people 
of India may well be poor 
and Ignorant, but tradi- 
tionally, they have never 
indulged in communal vio- 
lence. True, in the past 
There has been occasional 
discord, mostly due to 


socio-economic factors, but 
never has it been allowed to 
go out of control. 

The cover story makes it 
clear that politicians and re- 
ligious organisations have 
contributed to the com- 
munal violence in the coun- 
try by focusing on the 
Ayodhya issue. These 
sponsors of violence should 
remember that India was 
divided during Partition 
due to religious factors. 

To prevent a repetition, 
politicians and religious 

4 


fanatics should mend their 
ways. 

Nanda Duiat Roy Chowdhury, 
Kharagpur (West Bengal) 

■ The lack of faith that the 
Muslims have in the Pro- 
vincial Armed C'onstabul- 
ary (PACT is a cause for 
concern. I he PAC' has 
been accused of bias when 
it has been called to control 
riots. In spite of the many 
allegations made against 
the PAC\ the government 
has tailed to take any ac- 
tion, 

Amir All Khan, Aligarh (Uttar 
Pradesh) 

■ The detailed story on 
communal violence was 
worth reading. The Centre 
and state governments 
should take immediate 
steps to stop the marqh of 
religious fanaticism. Com- 
munal hatred is increasing 
due to malicious propagan- 
da being spread by politi- 
cians. 

The recent spate of vio- 
lence is just the beginning. 


Before matters come to a 
head, the government 
should create a climate of 
peace and brotherhood. 

Arvind Kumar Padhee, Varanasi 
(Uttaa Pradesh) 


Woman power 

G eneral Ershad is yet 
another Asian dictator 
to have fallen in recent 
times ( Fall of a dictator, 

16 — 22 December). It is in- 
teresting to note that two 


women, Ilasina Wajed and 
Khaleda Zia, played a lead- 
ing role in Ershad's ouster. 
Howevei , the.y have not 
commanded media atten- 
tion to the extent that Be- 
nazir Bhutto did in Pakis- 
tan. The charisma of these 
two women should be high- 
lighted. 

Louella Lobo Prabhu, Mangalore 
(Karnataka) 


A glimmer of 
hope 

I t IS laigely due to the 
efforts of Chandra 
Shekhar that the tensions 
over Ayodhya have eased 
( After the sto rm , 1 6 — 22 
December). His sincere 
efforts are responsible for 
bringing the involved par- 
ties to the negotiating 
table. The fact that they 
have agreed to meet and 
substantiate their claims is 
reason for optimism. The 
dialogue .so far has made 
for a congenial atmos- 
phere, which should be util- 
ised to bridge the religious 
divide that threatens the 
nation. 

An early resolution of 
the problem will help the 
nation come to grips with 
other issues such as the 
woeful slate of the eco- 
nomy and terrorism. 

Shashank Shekhar, Meerut 
(Uttar Pradesh) 

■ The fundamentalists 
should realise that God is 
not necessarily confined to 


a mandir or mosque. One 
should see God within one- 
self. The body is a temple, 
mosque and church. 

Dhananiay Patro, Bhubaneswar 
(Orissa) 

■ The Bharatiya Janata 
Party (BJP) is stirring the 
communal cauldron. The 
night of the long knives has 
descended upon Ayodhya 
due to the many incidents 
of communal violence tak- 
ing place throughout India. 
The country is now virtual- 
ly out of control I'he 1 lin- 
du upsurge, which harps on 
fascist strains, will lead the 
nation into a communal 
carnage. The secular fabric 
of the country will be torn 
to shreds. 

It does not make for a 
very pretty picture. 

Chlranfib Haidar, New Delhi 


Selling religion 

T he serialisation of the 
Mahahharat and 
Ramayana is the root cause 

A scene from Mahabhant 




Vehicles and shops damaged during a riot: debris of hate 




of Hindu revivalism in In- 
dia today (The TV epics, 
23 — 29 December). They 
have instilled a sense of 
pride in Hindus and has 
also made them more 
aware of their religion. 

It is a matter of dis- 
appointment that politi- 
cians are gaining mileage 
out of this awareness. 

Manav Jalan, Calcutta (West 
Bengal) 


Unfair criticism 

T he comments on Soli 
Sorabjet* are unjusti- 
fied and unfair to him 
(Who's in, who's oar, 9 — 15 
December). I have been 
practising as an advocate in 
the Supreme Court right 



Soli Sorabjee: distinguished 
career 

from its inception and have 
had the privilege of being 
closely acquainted with all 
the attorney-generals from 
1950 onward. Soli vSorabjec 
has been and is a man of 
the highest integrity and 
professional standards and 
has put in a splendid per- 
formance as the attorney- 
general of India. I lis per- 
formance has been no less 
than that of any of the 
previous eminent attorney- 
generals and is comparable 
to the best of them. 

J.B. DadachanJI, New Delhi 


Lawless state 

N ever before in the his- 
tory of Hyderabad has 
there been such a rash of 
communal violence (Car- 
nage and chaos, 16 — 22 De- 

SIMDAV 13— 19 January 1991 


cember). The brutal kill- 
ings of innocent people is a 
matter of shame. 

The Congress(I) govern- 
ment has failed to. control 
the law and order situation 
in the state, especially in 
Hyderabad. In the districts 
of Andhra Pradesh, the 
Naxalites are running 
amok. In the city of Hyder- 
abad, communal fanatics 
are murdering people at 
will. 

The law enforcement au- 
thorities have failed in car- 
rying out their duties. They 
have been unable to protect 
life and property and to 
date, are yet to arrest any 
of the culprits responsible 
for the communal carnage. 

5 . Bachan Jeet Singh, 

Hyderabad (Andhra Pradeah) 

iU . 

Brahmiki rule? 


D ata provided by 
Khushwant Singh on 
the Brahmins makes for 
interesting reading 
(Brahmin power, 23 — 29 
Decemer). His statistics 
should give the liberate peo- 
ple food fo! thought. 

The present Union 
Cabinet has five Brahmins 
out of a total of 15. If the 
high placement of 
Brahmins is not due to lO, 
then what is it due to? 

Definitely something 
wonh finding out. 

N.P. Kalyanam, Madras (Tamil 
Nadu) 


Exit, Reddy 

R ajiv Gandhi has turned 
the Congress! I) into a 
one-man show (Reddy, un- 
steady, gone , 23 — 29 De- 
cember). He has axed men 
who he felt were a threat to 
his political ambition. By 
the same token, Chenna 
Reddy does not have a 
clean record either. Both 
have been part l nd parcel 
of the jockeying within the 
Congress(I) with each 
trying to outwit :he other. 

Both Rajiv Gandhi and 
Chenna Reddy c'.re two 
sides of the same coin. 
AbIrPadhy, Berhampur(Orlaaa) 


Party animal 


T he story of “gate-crashing” in Raj Bhavan, where 
the Governor of Maharashtra was entertaining the 
Prime Minister of India along with certain VVIPs of the 
country, is like an episode from Arabian Nighis (The 
man who came to dinner, 9 — 15 December). The 
reporter, who had the audacity to file such a news item 
without confirming it, has not only ventured to 
assassinate my character, but has also undermined the 
subtle security system of our country. I low could 
uninvited individual break all security barriers of Raj 
Bhavan and reach the Prime Minister and hug him just 
like that? Are you trying to say that I have become that 
powerful? (Still I will not accept it as a compliment). 
The unconHrmed though imaginative reporting is 
deterioration of honest journalism. 

Mr Editor, let me bring home this point to you 
(which I have been proclaiming from rtu>f-tops for 
Quite sometime now), that I do not seek favours from 
tne Prime Minister, or for that matter, from any of his 
ministers, or chief ministers of various stales of India. 
Why would I gate-crash and for what purpose ? It was a 
personal, repeated invitation from Raj Bhavan which 
was accepted telephonically. To make it formal even an 
invitation card was sent to my residence. 

As far as Mr Pahlaj 5 

Nihalani (a respected g 

producer of filmdom) is | 
concerned, you have & 

referred to him as § 

chamcha. If you could not “ 
ive him proper respect you 
ad no right to use 
derogatory remarks against 
him. Regarding Mr Pahlaj '$ 
accompanying me, 1 had 
previously informed Raj 
Bhavan about his joining me. 

It was promptly accepted by Raj Bhavan and 
communicated to my office. "Chalo khana kha lete 
hein*\ By putting these words in mv mouth you have 
tried to paint me like a village bumpkin. You may be 
big enough to call me a “loudmouth ', but please don't 
become small to call me a badmouth, which certainly I 
am not. 

It was also cited in the report that 1 was keen on 
having dinner etc. Let me mention that all those who 
know me are aware of the fact that 8 o'clock is too early 
for dihner for Shatrughan Sinha. 

Irfcidentally, let me mention one more drama which 
was taking place outside. Quite a few journalists were 
denied entry into Raj Bhavan. I was instrumental in 
getting them the entry. 

However, there is one place where I can take the 
Maine — ^my coming late by half an hour. 

Unfortunately, no Prime Minister till date has been 
able to correct me. In spite of my being late I was given 
due importance and respect and made to sit in a 
befitting manner, and not with ADCs, as reported. I las 
this treatment worried your reporter? If that is the case, 
it is his bad luck and he has my heartfelt sympathies. 
Shatrughan Sinha, Bombay (Maharashtra) 










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LETTERS 


I am writing to protest 
against the biased, moti- 
vated and tutored observa- 
tions made in the write-up. 
How the Valley was lost 
(9 — 15 December). 

The reporter betrays her 
ignorance even with regard 
to elementary matters. She 
does not know that the 
state Assembly was not dis- 
solved on the day of my 
arrival in Kashmir. This 
happened much later. Nor 
does she know that the 
imposition of the Gov- 
ernor's Rule was asked tor 
by my predecessor, and the 
President’s concurrence in 
this regard was given be- 
fore my arrival on the 
scene. 

The scribe does not men- 
tion that before I came on 
the scent , there was an 
atmosphere of total mental 
surrender and the clouds of 
chaos and collapse had 
completely covered the 
Vallty. Were these tacts 
not dramatically demons- 
trated at the time of the 
Lok Sabha elections in 
November 19S9 and 
Rubaiya's kidnapping on S 
December? Does she not 
know that in a tantalising 
gesture, TV sets had been 
placed near some of the 
election booths with pla- 
cards reading: “Anyone 
who will cast his vote can 
take this as a gift.” She also 
ignores the basic data given 
by the home minister in the 
Parliament that even be- 
fore 8 December, that is, 
the day of Rubaiya 
Sayeed's kidnapping, 1600 
violent incidents took place 
in Jammu and Kashmir in 
the year 1989, including 351 
serious bomb explosions. 

Lest 1 should look less 
than objective, 1 would 
quote contemporaneous 
opinions of leading national 
newspapers. Sanjiv Miglani 
in his report in The States- 
man of 6 November, 1989, 
said, “As it exists now, 
Kashmir is very nearly lost 
to the nation." Earlier, the 
resident editor of the same 
paper, M.L. Kotru, in his 
deispatch from Srinagar of 


How the Valley could be won 


26 August, remarked: “If 
you decide to observe 
things for yourself, unaided 
by the fantasies of the day- 
dreamers who constitute 
the ruling elite at the Cen- 
tre and the state of J&K, 
the conclusion you will 
come to IS that no one 
really wants to face the 
challenge thrown by the 
militants.” In its issue of 23 
November, 1989, Ihe 
Times of India commented, 
“There seems to be a 
strange conspiracy of si- 
lence about the reign of 


terror, subversion and 
lawlessness in the once hap- 
py and now helpless Valiev 
of Kashmir.” 

How can the reporter 
suggest that Farooq res- 
igned because of what hap- 
pened in 1984? During my 
first term, on 7 November, 
1986, after termination of 
six months of Governor’s 
Rule and two months of 
President’s Rule, Dr 
Farooq Abdullah was 
sworn in by me as the chief 
minister. At the ceremony 
itself, he made a public 
speech for which the re- 
cords exist. In this speech, 
he, inter alia , said: “Gov- 
ernor sahib, we would need 
you very badly . It is, in- 


deed, amazing that such 
remarkable work could be 
done by you in a short time 
through an imbecile and 
faction-ridden bureaucra- 
cy. If today, three ballot 
boxes are kept —one for the 
National Conference, one 
for the C ongress and one 
for you. your ballot box 
would be tull. while the 
other two ballot boxes 
would be empty.” 

In view of the above 
observations, is it believ- 
able that Dr Farooq res- 
igned on the ground that I 


dismissed him oh 2 July, 
1984? Incidentally, the cor- 
respondent does not know, 
that even on 2 July. 1984. 1 
had asked for imposition of 
Governor's Rule, and not 
installation of G.M Shah's 
mmistry. The truth is that 
when I was appointed for 
the second term. Dr Farooq 
Abdullah, his colleagues 
and supporters got panicky. 
They apprehended expo- 
sure of anti-national deeds, 
corrupt practices and cri- 
minal negligence of their 
regime. They also had a 
guilty conscience. For, 
what has now happened 
had been accurately pre- 
dicted by me from 1988 
onwards, but my warnings 


were ignored. 

It is because of her bias 
that >he brings in 14-year- 
old incident of Turkman 
(rate. Had she cared to go 
through tw't) chapleis — 
‘Untold Story of 1 urkman 
Gate' and ‘Lies. Half-truths ■ 
and Convenient C'ortscious' i 
of my bt)ok. Island of I 
Tniih, she would have 
found the truth. She would 
ha\ e learnt that the Turk- 
man Ciate area had been 
declared unfit foi human 1 
habitation as far back as j 
1938. that the houses in ! 
question were d.ingerous i 
and dilapidated and had ; 
been acquired during 1948- j 
52. that, as was tragically ' 
demonstrated by eight sub- \ 
sequent deaths due to the I 
house collapses, inmates | 
lived under constant risk of ! 
death, and that against 120 | 
houses cleared, about 1 .000 ' 
alternative alloimeiit?i had 
been made- -200 flats m a 
most attractive colony of 
Ranjeet Nagar (Patel ! 
Nagar) and Shahdara to i 
bona fide slum-dwellers, j 
and 600 residential plots 
and 200 commercial plots | 
to the squatteis in the reset- ' 
llement colonies. The not j 
was connected not with the ; 
clearance hut with the fami- , 
ly planning j 

The writer also totally ' 
suppresses known and re- i 
ported facts Ry the end of ! 
Apnl. 1990, the corner had ! 
been turned. The Hindu, in | 
its issue of 15 Ma\ . 1990, j 
said. “1 here was a per- | 
ceptible change of atmos- i 
phere in the Valley in that ; 
the administration had be- | 
gun to function effectively i 
and the government was | 
visible, unlike only a few i 
months earlier. I'his spoke | 
of Mr Jagmohan's success.” I 
I have doubt that if ! 
distortions had not been j 
resorted to b\ a section of 1 
the press, the pioblem of | 
subversion anuierronsm in j 
Kashmir would have been ; 
solved by the middle of the j 
year and many lives saved | 
and agony ended 
Jagmohan, MR and former Gov- 
ernor of Jammu and Kashmir. 

New Delhi 



Militant Kashmiri youths: demanding independence 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 


7 



COUNTERVIEW 

VMOO MEHTA 


The minority PM 

Chandra Shekhar is uniquely placed to take the risks that 
neither Rajiv Gandhi nor V. P. Singh dared to 


During the height 
of the Cold War in 
the Sixties and 
Seventies, wise 
American com- 
mentators would 
enjoy pointing out 
that only a Re- 
publican Presi- 
dent could, im- 
prove East-West relations. A Demo- 
crat would be immediately accused of 
selling out, of having succumbed to 
pressure from the left wing of his own 
party. They rationalised that it was no 
coincidence that habitual commie- 
baiter Richard Nixon made the break- 
through with China, while the humane 
and liberal John Kennedy nearly set 
off the first nuclear world war. 

Watching Chandra Shekhar's daz- 
zling pyrotechnics, one wonders how a 
Prime Minister with 62 MPs of unde- 
termined status can appear to be mak- 
ing headway in so many different 
areas. In Assam, Punjab, Kashmir, 
Ayodhya we have definite semblance 
of movement that suggests progress in 
the right direction. How, then, does a 
lame-duck Prime Minikter with a 
minuscule representation in Parlia- 
ment and the narrowest electoral base 
convince the zealots who are tearing 
this country apart that they must en- 
gage in serious and honest negotia- 
tions? 

It is a paradox, but Chandra 
Shekhar's weaknesses are his strength. 
The fact that he and his government 
are bereft of a recognisable consti- 
tuency ^ives the Prime Minister and 
his Cabinet much more flexibility in 
operational terms. He has no ‘wings'in 
his party, no camps in his government, 
no special interest groups making 
sectarian demands. Moreover, he is 
not burdened by any manifesto or 
election promises. When he assumed 
office, Chandra Shekhar made some 
vague and weak noises about ''healing 
the wounds of the nation", but he did 
not tell the electorate how precisely he 
would go about doing that difficult 
task. His one hurdle, his one limiting 
factor, is the Congress. Here too, he is 

6 



prettily poised. Having given the Pres- 
ident and the nation an assurance that 
for 12 to 18 months, at least, the gov- 
ernment would not be disturbed, Ra- 
jiv Gandhi cannot easily renege on the 
commitment. 

M eanwhile, the temporary Prime 
Minister has nothing to lose as 
he goes — some would say recklessly — 
wooing terrorists, secessionists, com- 
munalists and fundamentalists to the 
negotiating table. If he fails he can ut 
least claim he tried his damnest, and if 
he wins he dramatically improves his 
chances of continuing in office. In- 
deed, the only way the "most hated 
man in Indian politics" can rehabili- 
tate himself with the voting public is to 
demonstrate his skills as a problem- 
solver. Thus, in a variety of ways, Mr 
Chandra Shekhar is uniquely placed to 
take the sort of calculated risks that no 
legitimate Prime Minister would have 
dared to take. 

Take Assam. Two days after the 
army had moved in, I spoke to a 
senior Janata Dal leader just back 
from Guwahati. How had Mr Mahan- 
ta and his men responded to direct 
rule from Delhi? "Publicly they are 
against it, privately they are delight- 
ed." He also confessed with disarming 
candour that the V.P. Singh govern- 
ment would have found it virtually 

ASHOK CHAKHAVOh 


impossible to have taken a similar de- 
cision; and if the Congress had dismis- 
sed the AGP government, uproar 
would have been instant and the ac- 
tion mired in controversy. Chandra 
Shekhar has sacked Mahanta over- 
night, sent in the troops, and there has 
hardly been a murmur of protest. 

In Punjab, the game has been at 
once more devious and audacious, but 
the end result, for the moment at 
least, appears satisfactory. 1 am con- 
vinced that when the Prime Minister 
declared that he was willing to consid- 
er changes in the Constitution, it was 
no slip of the tongue. The terrorists, 
sorry, militants, extracted the public 
announcement so that they could par- 
ticipate (by proxy) in the proposed 
talks. Of course, there was some back- 
tracking with the Press Information 
Bureau (PIB) sendir\g out a press re- 
lease clarifying the implications of the 
PM's extraordinary concession. 
However, the Panthic Committee got 
the message. Otherwise, why should 
militants change track at a time when 
Punjab was at their mercy with daily 
instructions about dress, language, 
diet and word usage being issued from 
the heart of Chandigarh? 

Mr Rajiv Gandhi can write letters 
by the hour to Chandra Shekhar 
cautioning him about the dangers 
ahead and warning him not to fiddle 


In Assam Chandra 
Shekhar sacked 
Mahanta overnight, sent 
in the troops, and there 
has hardly been a 
murmur of protest 



SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 







around with the Constitution, but the 
truth of the matter is that this govern- 
ment has notched up a small but signi- 
ficant victory: for the first time since 
the crisis erupted in the early Eighties, 
a united Akali party with the blessings 
of militant separatist groups, has had 
lengthy discussions with the Prime 
Minister of this country to work out 
the modalities of future negotiations. 
Mr Chandra Shekhar seems to be 
working on the principle that if you 
wish to engage a recalcitrant foe in 
dialogue it is necessary to accept his 
initial terms for that dialogue, howev- 
er outrageous they may be. Neither 
Rajiv Gandhi nor V.P. Singh had the 
mandate to offer negotiations without 
“preconditions'; the present incum- 
bent having no mandate to inhibit 
him, can take the liberty with im- 
punity. 

The Punjab initiative might still 
come to nought. But it talks begin, the 
badly depicted author it> and ci edibil- 
ity of the Akalis w'ill be partially res- 
tored in the eyes of the Sikhs m Pun- 
jab. Even if br Sohan Singh (^f the 
Panthic Committe plays dirty at some 
future date, he would have been ens- 
nared into a process, the logical end of 
which is discarding the gun. The 
separatists no doubt have their own 
compulsions for accepting the Prime 
Minister’s invitation (they are as deep- 
ly divided as their emissaries to Delhi) 
but it could be argued that they arc 
walking into a trap set for them by the 
wily MP from Balha 

Although there has been only one 
brief meeting between Mr Nawaz 
Sharif and Mr Chandra Shekhar, some 
sort of breakthrough seems imminent 
South Block is full of stories about 
weekly chats between the two PMs on 



Chandra Shekhar's weaknesses are 
his strength. He has no ‘wings’ in his 
party, no camps in his government 
and he is not burdened by any 
manifesto or election promises 


the phone, during which jokes are ex- 
changed and mutually convenient 
dates for state visits finalised. The new 
boss of Pakistan is no peace-loving 
statesman determined to usher in 
Indo-Pak detente. Yet, this 62-strong 
leader ot the Janata Dal (S) has been 
able to convince his counterpart in 
Islamabad to cool the rhetoric and 
mind the AK47 rifles crossing the bor- 
der. No doubt, Washington and Beij- 
ing have also exerted useful influence, 
but they had in the past done so with 
Benazir Bhutto too, and achieved no 
thing. So, what magic words did ('han- 
dra Shekhar whisper into Nawaz Shar- 
if's ear, what private denis did he 
strike to effect the modest change of 
posture — confirmed most recently by 
our foreign secretary on his return 
from Islamabad? I can give you no 
details, and can only suggest that a 
domestically unencumbered Prime 
Minister found conversation and con- 
fidence-building easier with a per- 
ceived enemy. 



In Punjab the game has 
been at once more 
devious and audacious. 
The Prime Minister 
declared that he was 
willing to consider 
changes in the 
Constitution 


M r Chandra Shekhar’s freedom to 
operate in a terrain littered y^ith 
good intentions is best seen in the 
Ram Janmabhoomi crusade which un- 
fortunately has today become a 
straightforward Hindu-Muslim con- 
flict. Rajiv Gandhi, because of his 
electoral base, had so many vote 
banks to satisfy that he ended up 
alienating the lot. V.P. Singh took 
such an implacable pro-court, anti- 
temple position that his role as mod- 
erator was seriously compromised. 
Happily, in this particular dispute 
Chandra Shekhar’s government has 
no past. It can play the role of the 
honest broker because it has the confi- 
dence of both sides. Talking to Mus- 
lims in the last few weeks, I detect a 
sea-change in attitude: the idea of giv- 
ing up the masjid as a gesture of good- 
will to Hindus, provided constitutional 
guarantees can be obtained about 
other disputed structures, is no longer 
unthinkable. The Muslim leadership 
will require enormous courage and vi- 
sion to sell such an idea to its people 
and it will also need the backing of a 
government which is untainted by 
charges of partisanship 

Will an illegitimate, minority gov- 
ernment have the moral authority to 
enforce solutions hammered out at the 
negotiating table? Might not Rajiv 
Gandhi or V.P. Singh insist on sharing 
the glory or more likely, queering the 
pitch? Under normal circumstances, 
Mr Chandra Shekhar’s 'unique' gov- 
ernment would not have even been 
allowed to address the problem, leave 
alone resolve it. However, such is the 
national mood, so acute the sense of 
desperation, that if the Congress or 
the Janata Dal or the communists 
were identified as wreckers, the 
momentum of public opinion, cutting 
across party lines, would engulf them 
and render them irrelevant. 

I am not pleading for making a tem- 
porary government permanent. The 
Janata Dal (S) is an aberration and the 
sooner it dies the better it will be for 
constitutional governance in this coun- 
try. However, now that it is destined 
to be with us for some time, its daily 
existence is no reason for self- 
immolation. Mr Chandra Shekhar's 
transient regime will not be noted by 
future historians as Indian democra- 
cy’s finest hour, but there is an outside 
chance that a Prime Minister with 62 
MPs and a severely curtailed lifespan 
might do more good than one that had 
over 4()0 followers in Parliament and a 
reign of 1,825 days. • 


SUNDAY 13— ie January 1991 


9 




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RK lAXMAN/INE RMESOFmOM 



■ There can be no 
conpromise on the unity 
'and integrity of the 
country and the mi!<(ants 
who come for talks must 
remember that 1 am 
totally opposed to 
seiNiratism. 

Chandra Shekhar, Prime 
MUUster 

t 

4 We do not approve of 
. 'tile way in which Chandra 
.‘tnwidMir is dealing with 
■'Wh^ituration (of Punjab), 
•*^«l|kiQg surrender after 


surrender to the 
extremists. 

E.M.S. Namboodiripad, 
CPl(M) general secretary 

■ In any case, by framing 
different laws for Punjab, 
the nation has accepted 
Punjab as a separate legal 
entity. 

S.S. Mann, Akali Dal 
(Mann) president 

■ The party would 
support the government 
on the merits of each 
issue. While they 
(Congress MPs) should 
allow the government to 
run, they should not 
refrain from pointing out 
the government’s defects 
or wrong policies and 
criticising the same. 

Ra>iv Gandhi. Congress(l) 
president 

■ I am not an emissary of 
Prime Minister Chandra 
Shekhar. I have taken up 
the^S!^ (to Ayodhyiji) 


in the capacity of a Hindu 
sadhu. 

Chandra Swami, 
controversial godman 

■ Workers cannot ignore 
their responsibilities 
merely by saying that they 
are Left Front supporters. 
They will have to oo their 
work. 

Jyoti Basu, West Bernal 
duef minister 

■ If 1990 was bad, 1991 
will be worse. I do not see 
a ray of hope in today’s 
grim scenario. 

KubHv/ANi Singh, 
journalust and author 

■ I owe my success 80 per, 
cent to my good hick and 
20 per cent to my own 
effort. However, do not 
forget that it was my good 
luck that prompted me to 
put in my best efforts. 

Russi Modv, efudrman 
and managing diriKtor of 
Tata Iron and Steel 
CotfgmgyfmCO) 


■ I’ve become cautious 
about everything. It is 
difficult to explain but I 
know I’ve changed (in the 
last 12<13 months). 

Sachin Tendulkar, 
cricketer 

■ If you can see the aitor 
acting, it doesn’t remain 
acting, it becomes 
showing off. I would be 
hai^er if someone told 
me I wasn’t acting, rather 
than the other way round. 

Sunny Deol, actor 






— — ^rni iTifTp— — — 

Keepii^ 
them posted 

Ajit Singh, Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas 
Paswan vie for the Janata Dal presidentship 


T he first time the Janata Dal 
split, the Raja suggested 
that it was because of the 
ambition of one man: Chan- 
dra Shekhar. But it now 
appears as if the ambition of some 
others may lead to the party being 
divided once again. At stake is the 
post of Dal president, occupied at pre- 
sent by S.R. Bommai, with such party 
stalwarts as A jit Singh. Sharad Yadav 
and Ram Vilas Paswan lobbying for 
appointment, while the younger MPs 
insist that the honour go to someone 
who hasn't already spoilt his track re- 
cord in government (which automati- 
cally disqualifies all the contestants). 
And no matter who wins this battle of 
wits — and nerves — the Janata Dal is 
bound to lose out, with factionalism 
resurfacing in a much more diabolic 
incarnation. 

The first person to throw his pagri 
into the ring was former industry 
minister, A jit Singh. Soon after the 
V.P. Singh regime was voted out by 
Parliament, Ajit Singh began his cam- 
paign to take over from Bommai. His 
impatience to oust the party president 
was understandable: his advisors had 
made it clear that if he wasn’t 
appointed to the post, he was .sure to 
lose what remained of his support base 
in western Uttar Pradesh. The Bhar- 
atiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader, 
Mahendra Singh Tikait, had already 
declared war against Ajit Singh by 
organising a rally in Muzzatarnagar 
addressed by Chandra Shekhar, Devi 
Lai and Mulayam Singh Yadav, all of 
whom attacked the former industry 
minister. The Uttar Pradesb chief 
minister, in fact, announced \$everal 
concessions to farmers ort Tikait’s de- 
mands, a move calculated to damage 
Ajit Singh’s prospects in his Jat consti- 
tuency. 

Tikait, who had supported Ajit 
Singh during the last election, had 
gone over to the oth^ksi^. And was 


even threatening to field his own 
candidates in western UP — even 
against Ajit Singh — the next time the 
country went to the polls. If this move 
did work out, the Jat votes would of 
necessity be divided and Ajit Singh 
would be the worst loser. 

In order to prevent this cheerless 
scenario from becoming reality, the 
former Union minister had to project 
himself as a leader of substance: as 
someone who could get things done 
for his supporters. Since the Janata 
Dal was out of power, the only post of 
consequence he could aspire to was 
that of party president. And Bommai, 
who was clinging on to his chair in the 
manner made famous by the Raja, 
would just have to go. 

A jit Singh had other problems as 
well. He’d received a major set- 
back in his constituency, Baghpat, 
when Ashok Singh, the chairman of 
the municipal council of Baraut (the 
biggest town in the area) and a close 
relative of his, revolted and went over 
to the Congress(I). Ajit Singh man- 



aged to call a meeting of the executive 
members of the corporation, but 
Ashok Singh proved even smarter. He 
got the three nominated members on 
the body changed using the good 
offices of urban development minis- 
ter, Uttar Pradesh, Sukhda Mishra. 

That wasn’t the last of the revolts, 
though. In western UP, Bhopal Singh, 
a loyalist MLA of Ajit Singh’s broke 
up with him to join Mi.layam Singh 
Yadav. I’his combined with the mur- 
der of Shiv Charan, Ajit Singh's cam- 
paign manager, ensured that the for- 



The ambition of some members may once again spiit the Janata Dai. At 
stake is the post of the Dai president, currently held by S.R. Bommai, 
with such stalwarts like (from left) Ajit Singh, Ram Vilas Paswan and 
Sharad Yadav lobbying for the chair 


12 


Hr 

I- 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 








Janata Dal members at a convention: a divided lot 


mtT minister was worse t)tt than ever 
before. Especially, at a time when re- 
ports had It that the Jat leader Vish- 
wendra Singh (of the Bharatpur royal 
family), who had resigned from the 
Lok Sabha on the Mandal issue, was 
planning to stand against him in 
Baghpat. 

It was. therefore, imperitive that he 
take over as party president to salvage 
his position somewhat. 

Ajit was convinced that this 
wouldn’t be a problem. After all, 
wasn’t Bommai a “good friend” of his, 
with whom he’d had dinner ever so 
often. 

But Singh underestimated Bom- 
mai — and his exaggerated sense of 
self-importance. The party president 
refused to budge from his seat, despite 
Ajit Singh’s cajoling. What’s more, he 
even defected from the former indus- 
try minister's camp to go over to the 
Raja, who was more than willing to 
grant him a significant position' in his 
durbar. 

In Ajit Singh’s book, this was bet- 
rayal of the worst order. And he 
reacted by criticising Bommai on party 
forums, in the media and, even, dur- 
ing private conversations. The party, 
said Ajit Singh, was no longer func- 
tioning at the grass-roots level, there 
was no discipline worth the name, the 


organi.sation had become moribund, 
etc., etc Since Bommai was presiding 
over this: sorry state of affairs, he 
should own moral responsibility and 
resign. 

In his campaign against Bommai, 
Ajit Singh got the support of such 
other party stalwarts as Arun Nehru, 
Arif Mohammad Khan and CJeorge 
Fernandes, leading him to believe that 
victory was bound to be his. 

S harad Yadav had different ideas, 
though, and declared his candida- 
ture for the same post. His supporters 
argued that the post should go to a 
Yadav or else the backwards would be 
lost to the Janata Dal in both Bihar 
and UP, thanks to the influence of 
such rivals as Hukum Deo Narayan 
Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav. 
Bihar C’M Laloo Prasad Yadav backed 
this move, on the grounds that it 
would ensure that the party benefited 
from the Mandal report. If, on the 
other hand, Ajit Singh was made party 
president, the backwards would get 
disenchanted with the Dal. After all, it 
was no secret that the .’lats were dead 
against the implementation of the 
Mandal recommendations. 

Ram Vilas Paswan, however, has no 


such disqualifications. And sure, 
enough, the former Union minister 
began lobbying to be appointed party 
president. According to him, after 
Mandal the backwards were on the 
side of the Dal, anyway. But if he was 
made president of the party, the Hari- 
jan votes would come rolling in as 
well. What’s more, V.P. Singh reposes 
almost total confidence in him and 
that could only work in his favour. 

The younger MPs of the Dal were, 
however, having none of this. They, 
therefore, began a campaign to ensure 
that no former minister was appointed 
to a party post, especially such leaders 
as I.K. Gujral, Mufti Mohammad 
Sayeed and George Fernandes, who 
have no support base of their own. If 
such persons were rewarded, said such 
MPs as Harsh Vardhan and Har Kew- 
al Prasad, party morale was bound to 
plummet even further. 

But the Raja wasn’t in the least 
convinced by this argument, or moved 
by the remove-Bommai campaign. He 
proposed that a rotation system be 
brought into effect as far as the party 
presidentship was concerned. In 
accordance with this, Bommai would 
continue in the post, until his term ran 
out. 

V.P. Singh’s preference for Bom- 
mai was understandable. As his sup- 
porters pointed out, Bommai had de- 
serted both Chaudhary Devi Lai and 
Chandra Shekhar, but had stuck by 
the Raja through thick and thin. This 
kind of loyalty could not go without 
reward. 

But Bommai's persona of the loyal 
soldier began to wear a little thin as 
the campaign against him continued. 
The Dal president, tired no doubt of 
being used for target practice, re- 
sorted to some old-fashioned bluster 
to reinforce his authority. The con- 
sequences in south India, he 
threatened, would be quite dire if he 
was ousted from his post. 

Unfortunately, nobody took the 
poor man too seriously. 

While the Raja busied himself in 
working out (what else?) a comprom- 
ise formula, offering the chairmanship 
of the parliamentary board to Ajit 
Singh and the treasurer’s post to Arif 
Mohammad Khan, the aspirants to the 
party presidentship held out for more, 
threatening to create a stir at the Bhu- 
baneswar convention of the party, 
scheduled to be held in February. 

It promises to be a spring of discon- 
tent, as far as the Janata Dal is con- 
cerned. • 

Rajiv Shukla/New Delhi 


8UN0AY 9 January 1991 


13 


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THE SOUTH BLOCK 


INDER MALHOTRA 


Policy problems 


Why don't Indians take foreign affairs seriously? 


A 


In the course of the 
agonised debate 
within the United 
States on the choices 
in the Gulf, Arthur J. 
Schlesinger Jr, one of 
John Kennedy’s 
trusted aides and a 
historian of distinction, has made a 
very pertinent point. Foreign policy, 
he says, gets made for a variety of 
reasons such as pride, prejudice, pro- 
vocation, calculation of national in- 
terest, pressure of public opinion and 
so on. But, more often than not, he 
adds wryly, the main motivating force 
behind foreign policy tends to be plain 
ignorance. 

Warning his countrymen that the 
knowledge about the Gulf region in 
America was strictly limited, he has 
underscored his point by drawing 
attention to the melancholy fact that 
for more than five years, US policy on 
Indochina was based on the confident 
assumption that Vietnam was the 
spearhead of subversion all through 
South-East A.sia, masterminded and 
controlled by China. After this idiocy 
had blown into Lyndon Johnson’s 
face, Schlesinger twitted one of LBJ’s 
confidants. Any historian could have 
told you, Schlesinger said to the highly 
embarrassed official, that the Viet- 
namese could never be agents of Chi- 
na because for a thousand years they 
and the Chinese have hated each 
other. The reply by Johnson's adviser 
was Shattering. 

“When we have a difficult problem 
about Russia, we can always consult 
some of our experts like George Ken- 
nan, Llewellyn Thompson etc. But, as 
you ought to know, John Foster Dul- 
les destroyed all our China experts, 
branding them pro-communist. We 
have no one to fall back on.” 

I offer no apology for quoting Schle- 
singer at such great a length because a 
lot will be gained if the point made by 
him can be driven home to not only 
policy-makers in our country but also 
to people at large, or at least to those 
who do try to analyse and comment on 
foreign afrairs. Tlie reason for saying 
so is that in no other country in the 
wide world is expertise looked down 


upon with such distrust and disdain as 
in India. And in no other field is it 
considered more expendable than in 
that of foreign policy making. 

However, let me not be guilty of 
exaggeration. P.V. Narasimha Rao 
and Inder Gujral are two former fore- 
ign ministers who did try to seek out 
people outside the government's 
charmed circle who they thought knew 
something about the more complex 
issues confronting the country M K. 
Rasgotra and S.K. Singh are among 
the former foreign secretaries who 
also tried to do the same. But, in all 


fairness, these exercises wTre episodic 
to the point of being rare and utterl\ 
ad hoc. In any case, they amounted to 
little. 

But never mind the outsiders foi 
whom those occupying high official 
positions have no earthly use Incredi- 
ble though it may seem, the top brass 
has very little use even for experts and 
specialists within the bureaucratic 
labyrinth unless they are specificaDv 
assigned to the appropriate “desk"! 
This requires explaining. Let us sav 
that some foreign service officer wh(^ 
might have spent the previous ten 
years in North Korea, Kenya and Au- 
stralia is suddenly made joint secret- 
ary in charge of India's relations with 
the United States. From the das he 
takes charge he becomes the principal, 
if not the only, adviser on America of 
the hon'ble foreign minister whose 
own knowledge of American affairs 


may be no greater. The two “general- 
ists", between them, would make our 
America policy. There may be five 
other officers in the building with long 
experience of serving in the US deal- 
ing with other regions or subjects. It 
would never occur to either the minis- 
ter or the mandarin temporarily in 
charge of America (or any other desk, 
t('r that matter) to consult those col- 
leagues who might have special know- 
ledge of the issue under consideration. 

It will be useful to illustrate this 
point w ith one of the several examples 
1 can cite. In December 1985, a major 


review of our Pakistan policy was on 
at Rajiv ( iandhi s instance. About the 
content and the subsequent consequ- 
ences of this review, the less said the 
better. But it must be reported that 
while the exercise was on 1 ran into 
Shankai Ba)pai in the corridors of the 
South Block Shankar was then 
ambassador the Llnited States and 
was home for “consultations” and a 
spot of leave. Since he had earlier 
been ambassador also to Pakistan and 
China. I took it for granted that his 
views must have been sought by those 
conducting the review. But I soon dis- 
covvied that those conductingthe re- 
view were keeping things close to their 
chests and could not even dream of 
consulting anyone. 

It rnav bo difficult to change such 
deeply ingrained habits. But shouldn’t 
we at least try • 



•UNQAY 1»-19 January 1W1 


15 







Man to Mann 

Chandra Shekhar’s move to negotiate with the Akalis 

comes underfire 

E ven as the figures of the kill- 
ings in Punjab during 1990 
were being tabulated, the 
Chandra Shekhar govern- 
ment was struggling to initi- 
ate a political process in the state. And 
the politician who has once again been 
propped on the centre-stage is none 
other than Simranjeel Singh — the 
Mann, who Rajiv Cjandhi (and later 
V.P. Singh) singled out and then re- 
jected as the Akah leader to reach a 
negotiated settlement with. 

Members of the C'handra Shekhar 
Cabinet insisted that the Prime Minis- 
ter’s talks with Mann were just the 
preliminary round of w hat were going 
to be long-drawn-out discussions with 
the Akali leadership. Hut even so, the 
talks were criticised by most political 
parties, which feared that the basis for 
the negotiations compromised India's 
unity. However, the question that 
begged to be answered was: what 
price would Chandia Shekhar have to 
pay to the .Akahs tt) ensure the success 
of the talks? 

Mann’s selection as ‘chief nego- 
tiator’ came as something of a sur- 
prise, since virtually everyone had 
agreed that the formei Indian Police 
Service (IPS) official was a spent force 
in Punjab’s politics. .lust as unex- 
pected was the 26 Oecember meeting 
at Fatcgarh Sahib of the various Akali 
Dal factions which saw the splinter 
groups — hcatlcd by Mann, Prakash 
Singh Badal and that professing loyal- 
ty to the late S«mt Haichand Singh 
Longowah unite and agree on a com- 
mon platform. The presence of Baba 
Thakar Singh, the acting head of the 
Damdami Taksal, ga\e the Akali con- 
vention the much-needed religious 
sanction. At the end of the meeting, 

Mann was selected as the Akali repre- 
sentative for negotiations with the 
central government. 

Mann’s initial round with the Prime 
Minister was sigiiific.ttu for a number The opposition parties feared that the Chandra 

of reasons. First, a political approach Shekhar>Mann negotiations took place on the latter’s terms. 

to the Punjab problem had been for- 
saken long ago and this was the first 
time in years that the C'entre had 
chosen to initiate negotiations. 


They charged that the Prime Minister had agreed to discuss 
the Akaii demand of the Sikhs’ right to seH-determination 



1 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 






Militancy in Punjab: greater now than ever 


Second, the choice of Mann as the 
Akali representative was controversial 
as he had been incarcerated for 
charges such as waging war against the 
nation and conspiring to murder Mrs 
Gandhi. Finally, the government had 
chosen to talk at a time when killings 
in Punjab had reached an all-time hi^ 
and militancy was jeopardising the 
peace as never before. 

The Akali representative did not 
hold out much hope at the end of his 
discussions with Chandra Shekhar. 
Mann claimed that negotiations on the 
Punjab problem would be worthwhile 
only if the militants were also per- 
suaded to participate. But it was his 
claim that the right of the Sikhs to 
self-determination formed a part of 
the memorandum that he had submit- 
ted to the Prime Minister that gener- 
ated controversy. 

T he C^mgress and the opposition 
parties were quick to warn the 
Prime Minister about the danger of 
negotiating with the Akalis on their 
terms. The main charge was that it was 
both unconstitutional and dangerous 
to talk to someone on the question of 
Sikh self-determination. Moreover, 
hadn't Mann himself claimed that any 
meaningful dialogue should be held on 
the basis of Article 5 ] ot the ( (institu- 
tion, which concerns India's relation., 
with other coimiries? Said Congress(I) 
spokesman M.J. Akbar, “'Fhe unity 
and integrity ot the country can never 
be negotiable and nor can violence,” 
Understandably, it was the Bhar- 
atiya Janata Party (BJP) which was 
the most vocal. The party's general 
secretary, B.L. Sharma, told Sundas 
that the very tact that Chandra 
Shekhar was willing to discuss the de- 
mand for self-determination gave the 
idea a dangerous respectability. “This 
demand shimld be rejected lock, stock 
and barrel,” he said forcefully . “If dis- 
cussions on this subject are held, it 
would open up a Pandora's box and 
lead to similar demands from othei 
stales as well.” 

As the criticism grew, minister of 
state for home Subodh Kant Sahay, 
who had also ‘handled' Punjab for 
V.P. Singh's government, tried his 
best to allay the fears of the parties. 
He clarified that the demand tor talks 
on the basis of Article 51 did not fi- 
gure in Mann's memorandum. “(The 
Opposition's) reaction shows a com- 
plete bankruptcy of our so-called 
national leadership on Punjab. They 
are talking as if we are selling Punjab 
to some foreign country. Tell me (is 


this), what should be expected from 
them when we are trying to hammer 
out a solution?” 

I'he minister claimed that Chandra 
Shekhar had refused to discuss the 
demand for self-determination during 
the talks and pointed out that Mann 
himself had later denied that a refer- 
ence to Article 51 had been made in 
the memorandum. “This is a time we 
are trying to understand each other. 
We are trying to create a sense of 
confidence among those who are ab- 
out to cross the borderline (to terror- 
ism), And we are trying to bring back 
to the mainstream, those people of 
Punjab who have already crossed the 
borcler,” he said. 

Although members of the ruling 
party would not admit it, the govern- 
ment was largely responsible the 
confusion that surrounded the talks. 
The Centre chose to keep both 
Mann's memorandum and details of 
the discussions a secret, leading ‘o 
considerable speculation of what w'as 
contained in the first and what trans- 
pired at the second. There was a cla- 
mour to make the memorandum pub- 
lic and, finally, Chandra Shekhar 
agreed to distribute copies of it to 
Janata Dal(S) leaders. 

Despite the Prime Minister's repe- 
ated claims that “there would be no 
compromise with the integrity and the 
unity of the country”, the Oppc^sition 
kept pressing him to tread cautiously 
when dealing with Mann. He was told 
that the Akali representative is no- 


thing but a prop of the hard-core Kha- 
listani militants. There were also 
apprehensions among some of the 
militant tactions which feared that the 
group led by Sohan Singh would be 
invited by the Prime Minister to the 
second round of talks. They warned ! 
the government of the consequences j 
of such a move. The powerful Panthic j 
Committee — w hich plays a crucial role i 
in a slate where politics and religion j 
have become intertwined — also ex- | 
pressed doubts about the negotiations. | 

It IS difficult to say how Chandra j 
Shekhar will respond to the pressures ; 
that his initiative to reach a political 
settlement has engendered. These i 
may well become greater if and when ! 
the second round of talks takes place 1 
As for Mann, he left for Punjab to ■ 
hold discussions with the various mili- 1 
lanl groups after warning of the “se- ' 
nous consequences” if the negotia- ! 
tions ended in failure. 

i 

There is little doubt that success on ' 
Pun|ab will give Chandra Shekhai's 
image a considerable boost and, I 
perhaps, also lend a measure of stabli- | 
ty to his minority government. But the j 
stand taken by the Akalis is onlv going i 
to become more and more rigid as the | 
discussions get down to substantixe | 
issues — the nitty-gritty. And so, the 
million-dollar question remains what i 
IS Chandra Shekhar prepaied to barter | 
in return for that elusive peace in j 
Punjab?® I 

Ritu Sarin/New Delhi 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 


17 










VAJRA GRANITES LIMITED ; 

Setting up a 100% EOU in Baswapur village, 
Andhra Pradesh to produce cut and polished 
rich black and coloured granite, quarried from 
neighbouring districts and states. With state-of- 
the-art gangsaws and diamond segmented 
technology from world leaders Gasperi, 
Menotti and Mordenti, Italy, Vajra Granites 
is poised for take off. Going into commercial 
production of slabs/tiles in April, 1991, 10-12 
months ahead of schedule. 

PEOPLE BEHIND : Mr. K.G.S. 

Ranganadha Prasad, the chief promoter, an 
advocate by profession, had practical training 
in the countr\' and abroad in the granite 
industry'. Co-promoters arc Mr. 
Chandrabhushan and Mr. L. Hanmanth Reddy, 
both leading businessmen and financiers. 

PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT : 

Vajra Granites has well qualified and 
experienced professionals on the Board with 
Mr. M.V. Subba Rao, ex-chairman, Indian 
Bank, as chairman. Mr. B.N. Reporter, ex-joint 
Managing Director, ACC and presently Advisor 
to Nihon Cement Co., Ltd., Japan in India 
and Mr. V. Balakrishnan, Finance Director, 
Pow’mex Steels Ltd. as Directors. The company 
has appointed experienced professionals to run 
the unit efficiently. 

CARVING A NICHE : World needs for 
granites are ever increasing especially in the 
USA, UK, Japan and the Middle East. Indian 
export meets of world demand. Vajra 

Granites will part bridge the gap in demand 
supply ^ export the world renowned 

A low break - even point 
at4S%llN^^Hption and cash break - even 


at 27% spells better profitability. Vajr.t 
Granites’ debt equits’ ratio is lo\^ at 1:1. 

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Vajra 
envisages to pay maiden dividend from the first 
year of operation. 

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS : 

J 100% Export Oriented Unit (EOU) 

J Sophisticated plant w'ith machiner)' from 
Italy and France to produce excellent 
granite products. 

J Ready and growing market -consumption of 
granite products in the world is increasing 
manifold. 

J Starting commercial production of slabs/ 
panels in April, 1991, 10-12 months ahead 
of .schedule. 

J Acquired rich quarries in freehold and 
leasehold lands ■ Quarn’ing commenced; 
Export of raw blocks to commence shortly. 
J Equity participation by API DC, Canbank 
Mutual Fund. 

J No power cut - fully backed by imported 
generator power. 

J Professional management backed by highly 
experienced team. 

J A green card project with customs and excise 
benefits. 

□ 88A, 80L, SOM of Income Tax Act and other 
Wealth Tax benefits. 

J Listing at Bombay and Hyderabad Stock 
Exchanges. 


Public Issue of 24,00,000 equity^ shares 
of Rs. 10/- each for cash at par 
aggregating Rs. 240 lakhs. 

!♦ the Company does not receive a minimum 
subscription ot 90% of the issue amount the entire 
sub.scription will be refunded to the applicants within 
90 days from the date of closure of the issue If there 
IS a delay in refund of such amount of more than 10 
days the Company will pay interest at 1 b% per annum 
lor the delayed period 


Issue Opens On 
16 th 

January, 1991. 


LEAD MANACEHS TO THE KSSUC 


Canbank Financial Services Ltd., 

F D Khan Building, Abid Road 
Hyderabad 500 001 


CO MANAGEFI TO THE ISSUE 

Standard ^ Chartered 

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A DIAMOND AMONG GRANITES 

VAJRA GRANITES UMIThD. 

6 12.WB/18 19, RAIBHAVANROAD, 

SOMAJIGUHA, HYDERABAD .**00 482. 




KHUSHWANT SINGH 


Chasing the burst 



Four years ago I was 
commissioned by the 
National Science 
Foundation of 
Washington to write 
a descriptive account 
of the monsoon, folk 
sayings of its onset and duration and 
what poets and writers had written 
about it. Monsoons was published 
three years ago by John Wiley and 
Sons of New York. It has many 
learned articles on every conceivable 
aspect of the monsoon; how it is born, 
why it hits only our subcontinent and 
its impact on our lives, literature, 
music and economy . 1 thought the last 
word had been said on the subject. 
That was not so. We have now a de- 
lightful personal encounter with the 
monsoon from the pen of an estab- 
lished travel writer on the staff of The 
Observer (London), whose trave- 
logues have been turned into televi- 
sion serials. 

Alexander Fratcr is a Scottish- 
Australian born and brought up in the 
south Pacific island of Vanatu. His 
interest in the monsoons had a curious 
beginning. Travelling by jeep and bus 
across mountainous Kashgar, he suf- 
fered some kind of spinal injury which 
paralysed parts of his body. While 
waiting in the lounge of a London 
hospital to be examined, he got talk- 
ing to a Bombay socialite, Rita Baptis- 
ta, whose husband was being treated 
for acute migraine. She casually men- 
tioned to Frater that her husband, a 
keen glider, had once been blowfi off 
his course by monsoon winds and was 
missing for some days. didn’t know 
you got winds with the monsoons,” 
said Frater. 

She replied, “Of course! They bring 
in the rains. You have never seen the 
monsoon’s burst? In Bombay it is 
j quite something. For months the city 
has been absolutely sweltering and 
then, usually on the afternoon of 10 
June, huge clouds begin to build up 
over the sea. Soon your wind comes, 
so strong that it will sink any little 
boats, that haven’t taken shelter. The 
wind drops, it gets very dark, there is 
terrific thunder and lightning and 
then— the deluge! Suddenly the air is 
very cool and perfumed with flowers. 
It is a time of rejoicing. And renewal.” 
it is also when I feel perhaps most 


truly Indian. 

Mr Baptista joined them and recited 
Kalidas: 

“The sky on every side is shrouded 
by rain-clouds 

>^ich wear the beauty of deep 
blue lotus petals. 

And here look like heaps of made- 
up eye-salve, and there 
Possess the charm of breasts of 
women with child.” 

Frater decided to see the impact of 
the monsoon with his own eyes and 
follow it up from its first burst be- 
tween Kanyakumari and Trivandrum, 
on to Goa, Bombay, Rajasthan and 
Delhi. And then end his journey at the 
Mecca of the monsoons, Cherrapunji, 
the wettest place on earth. 

The monsoon breaks on the south 
western coast about the 1st of June. 
Frater watched its onset from Kova- 
1am Beach. The monsoon bird, the 
Megha Papeeha (Clamator Jacobi-, 
nus), had been heard; the monsoon 
star, Mirg had been sighted. He de- 
scribes the “burst”: 

“More holiday-makers were join- 
ing the line. Ine imbroglio of inky 
cloud swirling overhead contained 
nimbostratus, cumulonimbus and 
Lord knows what else, all riven by 
updraughts, downdraughts and 
vertical wind shear. Thunder 
boomed, lightning went zapping 


Crater I 




... I ■ „ V : 

; ,1: /f : ' " 

■ ■’ * 


into the sea, the leader stroke of 
one strike passing the ascending re- 
turn stroke of the last so that the 
whole roaring edifice seemed sup^ 
ported on pillars of fire . Les- 
ser clouds suspended beneath it 
like flapping curtains reached right* 
down to the sea. The rains! every-, 
one sang.” 

Frater does not confine himself to 
descriptions. Every place he went 
chasing the monsoon he collected 
material on monsoon — related sub- 
ject; ancient travellers accounts about 
It, oil-massage monsoon therapy of 
Kerala, legends built round the phe- 
nomenon in different states, pavilions 
built by Maharajahs to watch the 
rains, monsoon melodies (Megh- 
malhar, Hindole) and much local gos-' 
sip about it at cocktail parties. His' 
heart was set on getting to Cherrapun- 
ji which was out of bounds for fore- 
igners. He had to hassle with the 
bureaucracy. This is what he has to 
say: 

“At this point I stopped keeping 
my journal on a daily basis. The 
Delhi bureaucratic machine ate up 
the days and made them meaning- 
less. I waited — ^by the phone, on 
staircases, in corridors and ante- 
rooms — while following my file 
from official to official, building to 
building. It was now formally in the 
charge of Mr R.B.Bakshbf theex- 
ternal affairs press relations, a 
rather stem, school-masterly man,, 
who occupied an office in a very 
long corridor; mysteriously, the 
number on his door bore no rela- 
tion to those on either side. At our 
first meeting he confirmed that ap- 
plications had been sent on my be- 
half to the state governments of 
Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland 
but, to date, none had responded. 
His hands were tied. He wished me 
luck.” 

Frater managed to get to Cherra- 
punji. As he anticipated, it rained all 
the time. He met a couple of retired 
Englishmen who had settled there and 
talked to the tribals. His mission over, 
he returne^o London to write his 
book , Chasing The Monsoon (Viking) . 
It is being prepared for serialisation by 
the BBC. Indians will read the book 
with profit and learn more about their 
own country. • 


19 






ANALYSIS 


everybody was confused, including 
Rajiv Gandhi. 

• Non-alignment was effectively junk- 
ed when Mrs Gandhi quite obviously 
tilted towards the Soviets because of 
that superpower's readiness to supply 
frontline weapons. Rajiv Gandhi too 
ran to Moscow everytime he sensed a 
crisis. 

The other reason for the Congress' 
decline stemmed from the failure of 
the Nehruvian ideology to solve the 
country's mounting problems. Mrs 
Gandhi, and more vigorously Rajiv 
Gandhi after her tried to formulate 
new ideas. None worked. Not even 
Rajiv Gandhi’s sincerely conceived 
plan on Panchayati Raj. In fact, Rajiv 
Gandhi's every idea floundered be- 
cause they appeared merely expe- 
dient. The call to unite the nation 
sounded too hollow and frightfully 
boring. The Mera Bharat Mahan con- 
cept flopped as it was conceived on an 
ad agency drawing board and not in 
the crucible of realpolitik. 

The same period, the Emergency 
and after, saw the rise of a strange, 
totally non-ideological platform, 
which Janata Dal theoritician S. Jaipal 
Reddy terms “non-Congressism". Va- 
rious political parties supporting wide- 
ly divergent philosophies came 
together on two occasions — 1979 and 
1989 — to defeat the Congress. And, 
on both occasions they were only tem- 
porarily successful. But no party had 
credible ideological moorings and no 
vision of a bright new India. 


N o political party, however, is pre- 
pared to admit that it is bereft of a 
meaningful ideology. Every political 
party insists that it has vision and ideas 
that can solve the nation's problems. 

Prakash Karat, an articulate 
CPI(M) analyst, believes that the left 
has a distinct, credible and alternative 
ideology to offer to the nation. “We as 
a nation have reached a dead end after 
four decades because of the Congress' 
ideological bankruptcy," he argues, 
adding: “In recent years, it was only 
the left that has shown itself to be 
consistent in fighting the growing com- 
munal threats... and the left offers a 
different economic model, suited to 
Indian conditions, that can provide an 
alternative growth path which is more 
equitable and more self-reliant." 

The Indian left today believes that 
the need of the hour is to combat 
communalism and protect the national 
unity by ending the authoritarian Cen- 
tre-state relations.. 


The BJP is even more sanguine. 
This party believes that the mythical 
warrior Ram can become a unifying 
factor for Indian nationalism. Govind 
Acharya, BJP national executive 
member, believes that the four basic 
ingredients of the national polity- 
caste, language, region and religion — 
are now causing problems because the 
nation has become weak. “If we can 
build the self-confidence of our peo- 
ple, the Indian native genius is bound 
to carve out its own path,” says he. 


gy. “The Congress is the only party 
that has a national vision and national 
dimension,” says Pranab Mukherjee. 
“There might have been mistakes, but 
our essential character remained in- 
tact.” That might be true, but public 
perceptions are what matters. The In- 
dian electorate, as the s|vings in poll 
results show, are looking for alterna- 
tives. Till now, they have not found 
one. 

Most politicians, however, are in- 
wardly not at all confident. In private. 



It is not just sections of 
the Sikhs (top left), 
Assamese (above)or 
Kashmiris who 
are angry with the 
system, but a general 
disaffection is expressed 
by every ethnic, religious 
and social group 


The Janata Dal too believes that it is 
forging a new path. “The era of non- 
Congressism is over," says Jaipal Red- 
dy. “V.P. Singh is still an evolving 
politician and not a finished product." 
This means that the Janata Dal is 
groping towards what it hopes will be 
a genuine ideological position. Chan- 
dra Shekhar, Prime Minister and lead- 
er of the breakaway Janata Dal fac- 
tion, is less ambitious in idelogical 
terms. He still believes that the old 
socialism-supremacy of the public sec- 
tor and more taxation — will solve eco- 
nomic problems, while cordial talks 
will solve the more vexatious prob- 
lems like Punjab. 

The most complacent is the Con- 

K {I). This party still believes that it 
a monopoly on national ideolo- 


they admit that most old ideas are not 
working and none of the new ideas are 
adequate to touch a national chord. 
The Congress(I)'s Ajit Panja is a rare 
politician who openly admits to the 
current bankruptcy of ideas and 
ideologies. “The current instability is 
not in government, it is in the heails of 
the people,” he says. “Gandhi had not 
merely brought Independence, he had 
revived the national psyche. Today, 
there is no aim and the common man 
has no enthusiasm." Panja says that he 
has thought a lot about finding a set of 
ideas that could fill the present vac- 
cuum, but he still does not have any 
answers. And perhaps, if other politi- 
cians were as candid, they too would 
admit of the same. • 
IndmUIBanmlh/New Delhi 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 


23 


AiMVAva; 


Sex, shame and 
scandal 


Why H.M. Ershad had to go 







A ppearances, at times, can 
be shockingly deceptive. 
Barely 5ft 7 inches in his 
boots and always clad in 
pastel shade safaris, Hus- 
sain Mohammad Ershad hardly fits in 
with the image of a ruthless military 
dictator that he was. Even today, at 
the depths of his fortune, the deposed 
Bangladesh President never loses his 
cool. And though Ershad has been 
interned in a posh house in Dhaka’s 
downtown Gulshan area since 12 De- 
cember with the police and the milit- 
ary keeping a round-the-clock vigil, 
stories emanate of how the former 
President and his powerful wife are 
spending their time tending to roses, 
reading books, watching films on the 
video and listening to music. This is an 
art that Ershad had prefected during 
his nine-year rule: deception. 

In fact, even while in power, Ershad 
survived on deceit. Thus, towards the 
end of his rule when his dubious busi- 
ness dealings and dalliances with 
women were beginning to catch up 
with him, a television crew always 
accompanied the General to the mos- 
que for Friday prayers. Hussain 
Mohammad Ershad, son of conserva- 
tive Muslim parents, liked the nation 
to observe his piety. 

For, outside the mosque, Ershad 
presided over what was undoubtedly 
one of the most corrupt regimes in the 
sub-continent. And though Bang- 
ladesh is the poorest nation in the 
world, it could boast of having the 
richest politicians. At the helm, of 
course, was Ershad himself, whose 
assets, mostly stashed away in foreign 
banks in America, Britain and 
Switzerland, run into hundreds of bil- 
lions of US dollars. And most of this 
money the former President is said to 
have made through business deals 
with international firms operating in 
Bangladesh and pocketing huge sums 
from the aid that flows into the coun- 
try from its affluent friends. There are 
a host of other charges against Ershad 
as well: drug trafficking, gold smug- 
gling, accepting pay-offs and the like. 
Ershad’s position today bears a strik- 
ing resemblance to that of the Philip- 
pines’ dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. 


THE PLAYBOY 


Ershad dancing In New York’s 
Chib-El, durliS; one of Ms fa^te 
America as Pro s Monl of 


24 


•UHDAY 13-19 Januiry 1801 







What's more, Raushan, Ershad's wife, 
is being portrayed along the lines of 
Imelda, the strong-willed First Lady of 
Philippines, who was widely believed 
to be the cause behind Marcos' down- 
fall. 

Ershad, of course, was not as lucky 
as Ferdinand Marcos. The Filipino 
President managed to sneak out of the 
country along with members of his 
Cabinet in the face of a popular revolt 
against his regime in 1986. But Ershad 
couldn't do that: the people and, 
curiously enough, the army prevented 
him from escaping. *The public anger 
against his regime was so intense that 
had the masses been able to lay their 
hands on Ershad or his ministers, they 
would have torn them apart," said Sul- 
tan Mohammad Mansur Ahmed, a 
former president of the Dhaka Uni- 
versity Central Students Union 
(DUCSU), the outfit that was in the 
forefront of the recent pro-democracy 
movement in Bangladesh. 

Certainly, not an exaggeration. 
Consider what happened on the night 
Of 5 December. Soon after Ershad 
declared over Bangladesh Television 
that he was handing over power to an 
interim government to facilitate elec- 
tions in the country, thousands of peo- 
ple laid siege to Minto Road, the well- 
fortified ministerial enclave in central 
Dhaka. By then, of course, the army 
had moved in, but the securitymen 
had a trying time preventing people 
from pushing forward. Some of them 
even climbed on top of the high walls 
and began stoning the houses. The 
offices of the Jatiya Party, Ershad's 
political outfit, in Dhaka and else- 
where, were set on fire. 

The crowds also blocked the airport 
entrance to ensure that Ershad and his 
men did not succeed in fleeing the 
country. But nothing of that sort hap- 
pened: while Ershad was promptly 
taken into police custody, most of his 
Cabinet members went into hiding. 
For the next few days, securitymen 
launched a massive manhunt for the 
former members of Ershad's Cabinet. 
Most of them — including Prime Minis- 
ter Kazi Jaffar, who was said to have 
taken the land route to India — proved 
to elusive, but the police did suc- 
ceed in tracking down Moudud 
Ahmed, former vice-president, 
Ershad's trusted jute minister Zafar 
Imam and the notorious home affairs 
minister, Mahmudul Hassan, who was 
better known as the “Thief of 
Baghdad". 



Dhaki Univarelty studente demanding the trial and 
efErahad 



NEIGHBOURS 



A checklist 


Though the interim government of 
Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed is yet 
to draw up formal charges against 
H,M, Ershad, the deposed Bang- 
ladeshi President is believed to have 
been associated with wide-ranging 
corrupt activities. 


FlnmcW bun g li n g; During his 
nine-year rule, Ershad had virtual- 
ly institutionalised corruption. He 
was the direct recipient of pay-offs 
from foreign companies doing busi- 
ness in Bangladesh. Bureaucrats, 
businessmen and members of the 
armed forces, too, are believed to 


never be able to launch a combined 
attack on him by playing up one 
general against the other and hand- 
picked those loyal to him to man 
key positions in the forces. Result: 
factionalism and petty politicking is 
rampant within the armed forces — 
a dangerous trend for the country’s 
security. 

A nithleM dietalon While 
Ershad rewarded his loyalists, he 
came down heavily on his critics. 
The former President promulgated 
a series of draconian laws to deal 
with his political opponents and 


B ut the prize catch was undoubted- 
ly Zeenat Mosharraf Hossain, 
one of Ershad’s many mistresses, and 
her husband, the former industries 
secretary, Mosharraf Hossain. Both of 
them had gone underground on the 
night their mentor, Ershad, decided to 
step down. But following a tip-off, the 
police picked them up from Mymens- 
ingh. Ershad had superseded several 
bureaucrats and posted Mosharraf in 
the key post at the industry ministry 
solely because of his closeness to 
Zeenat. In fact, the former President 
made no secrets about his relationship 
with the attractive-looking Zeenat and 
both of them spent many nights 
together in a government guest house 
in Dhaka. Initially, Ershad’s wife, 
Raushan, was dead against her hus- 





have made millions by plundering 
the national exchequer. 

PtopoHsm and lav«Niritimi: All 

key appointments in the govern- 
ment, the army and the judiciary 
were made by Ershad. In the end, 
he turned the government and the 
administration into a family affair. 
Ershad also never let down his 
friends and business associates. 

liMsion wHhbi the army: The 

fear that he might be toppled by a 
military coup was always there in 
Ershad’s mind. But he shrewdly 
made sure that the army would 


made a mockery of the country’s 
judicial system by arbitrarily 
appointing and dismissing judges. 
The press, too, bore the brunt of 
Ershad’s wrath time and again. 
Ershad also manipulated two par- 
liamentary elections to give his 
government a popular image. 

Moral degradation: Not only did 
Ershad lead a lavish lifestyle, his 
sexual exploits too are legendary. 
He had numerous affairs, secretly 
visited night clubs during his trips 
abroad and showered largesse — 
mostly public money — on his mis- 
tresses. 


band’s relations with Zeenat. There is 
this story of how one night Raushan 
barged into the guest house and, in a 
fit of rage, threw her slipper at 
^enat, which accidentally struck the 
President. Later, of course, she 
seemed to have reconciled herself to 
her husband’s ways. 

And Zeenat exploited her closeness 
to Ershad to the hilt. She became the 
de facto boss at the industries ministry: 
appointing and firing senior govern- 
ment officials and taking crucial deci- 
sions regarding handing out contracts. 
In fact, businessmen used to queue up 
outside her house to pay obeisance to 
the “Second Lady”. And, it is alleged 
that Zeenat accepted huge sums as 
cuts from her illegal business dealings. 
The Anti-Corruption Bureau, which is 
looking into charges of corruption 
against Ershad's men, has already 
filed several cases against the Hossain 
family in Dhaka courts. 


26 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 









NEIGHBOURS 


In fact, Ershad’s weakness for pret- 
ty faces landed him in trouble both at 
home and abroad. A scandal, and one 
which had the potential of wrecking 
Ershad*s political career, surfaced in 
1986, just as Ershad was preparing for 
presidential polls. One evening, a 
young lady in her mid-thirties walked 
into the London office of The Ohser- 
ver and came out with a sensational 
story. Identifying herself as Marium 
Mumtaz, she claimed that she was the 
second wife of H.M. Ershad. 

Since then, Marium has haunted 
Ershad and, at one time threatened to 
wreck Ershad’s political future. In 
October, 1986, The Observer front- 
paged a story about the Bangladeshi 




Marium Mumtaz, 
Ershad’s second wife; 
(below) spontaneous 
rejoicing in Dhaka 
following the change of 
government 


President and his secret marriage. The 
report caused a sensation worldwide, 
but Ershad managed to .smother all 
dissent in his country by clamping 
martial law. 

The tale of Marium and Ershad 
dates back to January 1976, when 
Marium alleged that she appealed to 
him as deputy chief of army staff for 
the release of her banker husband, 
then detained in a corruption case. 
Several meetings ensued and in no 
time Ershad fell in love with pretty 
Marium. In late 1980, Marium *s hus- 
band was driven to the army head- 
quarters to sign divorce papers in 
Ershad’s office. And on 14 August, 
1982, Marium and Ershad were mar- 
ried uuietly at the Dhaka home of a 
close business friend. But though Isla- 
mic law allows up to four wives, the 
General concealed the marriage be- 


cause by then he had seized power and 
felt that this relationship could cause 
political embarrassment to him. 
What’s more, Ershad and his military 
minions forced Marium to leave the 
country. Of course, Ershad had to pay 
a handsome .sum to buy her silence. 

Since then, Marium has been living 
mostly in New York and London. She 
did return to Bangladesh twice — in 
March 1983 and June 1986 — but on 
both occasions, Ershad and his men 
hounded her out of the country. 
Moreover, Ershad was at the height 
of his power then and no one dared to 
speak against him. 

Now, of course, the scenario has 
changed. Marium, who lives in New 
York, is all set to return to Bang- 
ladesh. And, she is bent on prosecut- 
ing the former President. During her 
lonely days abroad, Marium had hired 


the US investigating agency, Fairfax 
Inc., to dig up the dirt on Ershad. The 
agency reportedly prepared a detailed 
list of Ershad and his family’s prop- 
erties abroad and have handed over 
the papers to Marium. She now wants 
to transfer these documents to the 
three-member commission set up to 
examine charges against Ershad and 
his ministers. 

T here are other scandals in which 
Ershad landed himself as well. 
Most unfortunate among them is the 
one surrounding his seven-year-old 
son, Saad. On 21 January, 1983, soon 
after his secret marriage to Marium, 
Ershad caused a major sensation in 
Dhaka by announcing: '‘God has bles- 
sed me with a son.” The news came as 
a shock to the President's friends and 
acquaintances, who were all aware of 
Ershad and Raushan's frequent trips to 
fertility clinics abroad. Moreover, 
Raushan at that time was just over 50 
years old and no one, not even her 
charmed circle, noticed any signs of 
pregnancy. The First Lady seemed to 
have given birth to the child over- 
night, and Bangladeshis promptly 
nicknamed him as the “miracle baby”. 
What’s even more suspicious, unusual 
for a head of state’s wife, no obstetri- 
cian was present at the time of the 
birth! 

The popular view is that Saad is the 
son of Raushan's sister. And curiously 
enough, Ershad’s in-laws began to 
assert themselves — often interfering in 
the affairs of the government — soon 
after the “birth” of Saad. As one Awa- 
mi League activist put it: “Raushan’s 
family began to blackmail Ershad af- 
ter the incident. Just look at how he 


■UNIMY 13-19 JifHMfy 1991 





NEIGHBOURS 



Acting President Shahabuddin Ahmed (centre) has done very 
little so far to prosecute General Ershad. This has given rise to 
douhts in the minds of the people 


placated them with positions in the 
government and the administration.’’ 

Not an entirely wild charge. From 
1983 onwards, Ershad has consistently 
promoted the interests of Raushan’s 
family. Today, all of the First Lady’s 
three sisters and at least two of their 
husbands arc successful middlemen, 
benefiting hugely from the commis- 
sions from government construction 
projects. 

Some of them even found a berth in 
Ershad’s Cabinet. One of Raushan’s 
sister, Momata Wahab was a deputy 
minister, while his brother A.H.G. 
Mohiuddin, a junior civil servant, has 
held a succession of senior diplomatic 
posts abroad. And Shawfikul Ghani 
Shapan, brother of Mohiuddin’s wife, 
was rmcc appointed aviation minister 
by the former (jeneral. 

I f Ei shad's personal life was tar- 
nished, so was his Cabinet. 'I'he 
General had made a big issue of cor- 
ruption when he seized power in 1982 
from the then elected President, Jus- 
tice Abdus Sattai of the Bangladesh 
Nationalist Party (BNP). And soon 
after assuming office, he even jailed 
several of Sattar’s ministers on charges 
of graft and corruption. But midway 
through his reign, when popular 
movements threateneii to overthrow 
him, he started making compromises. 
In 1986, he floated the Jatiya Party in 
the face of a gi owing demand for 
democratic rule, and accommodated 
those very people he had either jailed 
or prosecuted in 1982 for misrule. La- 
ter, many of them even found a place 
in the Cabinet. Take the example of 
the former vice-president, Moudud 


Ahmed. He was a member of Zia-ur 
Rahman’s government as well but was 
sacked by him. And when Ershad be- 
came the President, Moudud was de- 
tained on charges of corruption. But 
later, he joined the Jatiya Party and 
became a powerful member of 
Ershad’s Cabinet. 

Most notorious in the former gov- 
ernment, however, was the home 
minister, Mahmudul Hassan, a retired 
major-general whom junior officers 
niclinamcd “The Thief of Baghdad" 
Ironically enough, when Ershad de- 
clared martial law in Bangladesh, his 
name topped the army’s clean-up list. 
But the former President probably in- 
ducted Mahmudul in his government 
because of his legendary ability to 
bring in funds. 


uring her days 
abroad, Marium had 
hired the US 
investigating agency 
Fairfax Inc. to dig up the 
dirt on Ershad. The 
agency is reported to 
have prepared a detailed 
list of the former 
President’s assets 


E rshad’s business associates are no 
less notorious. It is believed that 
the former President made most of his 
money from deals he struck with firms 
in return for government contracts. 
And party to Ershad’s transactions 
was a cotirie of businessmen, many of 
whom were arrested by the former 
General himself in 1982. The most 
powerful among this inner circle was 
undoubtedly Zaharul Islam, the con- 
struction tycoon, who came to be 
known as the “Rockefeller of Bang- 
ladesh’’. In 1982, an arrest warrant 
was issued against him for being in- 
volved in a banking scandal, but it was 
never executed because of his close- 
ness to Ershad. 

There are enough evidences against 
the former President, and since 
Ershad made more enemies than 
friends during his reign, there won’t 
be any dearth of those willing to de- 
pose against him either. But the ques- 
tion is: will the interim government, or 
the next one that comes to power, 
prosecute him? So far, all that the 
Justice Shahabuddin regime has done 
is to set up a commission to go into the 
charges against the former President. 
Obviously, this is a long-drawn pro- 
cess. Moreover, no special tribunal 
has been set up to expedite Ershad’s 
trial. This has given rise to doubts in 
the minds of the people. 

Moreover, as one political observer 
pointed out, in the nine years that 
Ershad was in power, he had packed 
the government and the administra- 
tion with his loyalists. The regime may 
have been toppled, but the bureaucra- 
cy is still full of Ershad's men. 

But what’s most important is the 
attitude of the army — the one orga- 
nisation that holds the key to power in 
Bangladesh. And though the generals 
have all displayed neutrality during 
the recent transfer of power, it is un- 
likely that they would allow the public 
humiliation of one of their men. 

But what has certainly given Ershad 
and his men a breather, is the impend- 
ing parliamentary election. Bang- 
laaeshis are so busy with the polls that 
people have already forgotten about 
the trial of Ershad. What’s more, the 
Jatiya Party led by the deposed Presi- 
dent is even contemplating contesting 
the elections. Whatever be the out- 
come, this would certainly mean a vic- 
tory of sorts for Ershad. Then, every- 
thing else might be forgotten — just as 
it happened in 1975. • 

Rally Bag^l with Alamgir 
ftaaaaln/bhalai 


28 


SUNDAY 13-1 9 January 1991 






COVER STORY 


DOES RUN 
WANfOUf? 

Are we heading for an election as 
Congress (I) dissatisfaction with Chandra 
Shekhar mounts? 


T hey linked up on the re- 
bound. After spending five 
years criticising Rajiv Gan- 
dhi and his leadership, 
Chandra Shekhar suddenly 
rushed into his arms. His motivation: 
a disillusionment with V.P. Singh. 
And Rajiv, in turn, submerged his 
impatience with Shekhar's brand of 
socialistic, old-style Congress politics 
and backed his bid for the prime 
ministership. His reasons were simi- 
lar: he would join hands with almost 
anvbody to get rid of the Raja. 

but can such a match last? A good 
marriage needs compatibility, even if 
there is no romance. And a strong 
political alliance needs a similarity of 
styles, even if ideological unity is hard 
to find. 

By that reckoning, the Rajiv- 
Shekhar alliance was in trouble almost 
before they linked up. And all of last 
week, during the stormy opening days 
of the parliamentary session. New De- 
lhi buzzed with speculation that at 
least one of the partners wanted a 
divorce. 

While Chandra 
Shekhar went out of his 
way to assert that he had 
no problems with the 
Congress, there was spe- 
culation that Rajiv Gan- 
dhi was already tiring of 
the alliance. It wasn't 
anything the former 
Prime Minister actually 
said, rather it was the 
way the Congress was 
reacting to issues. 

The immediate pro- 
vocation for the specula- 
tion was the parliamen- 
tary furore over Sub- 
ramaniam Swamy. 


According to a front-page report in 
The Hindustan Times, timed to coin- 
cide with the start of the session, the 
law, justice and commerce minister 
had threatened Lok Sabha Speaker 
Rabi Ray with arrest if he committed 
contempt of court and disqualified 
Janata Dal(S) MPs, whose status was 
the subject of a legal case. 

While neither Swamy nor Ray 
accepted that events were exactly as 
The Hindustan Times had claimed, 
most politicians conceded that some 
such exchange had taken place be- 
tween the two men. Nevertheless, 
Chandra Shekhar’s supporters fell 
that this was a needless controversy. 
The conversation in question had 
taken place some days before the news 
item appeared; Shekhar had personal- 
ly phoned Ray to apologise; and the 
Speaker, in turn, had given the im- 
pression that the chapter was closed. 

The Hindustan Times item, howev- 
er, gave the government’s parliamen- 
tary opponents precisely the kind of 
ammunition they needed to put the 
regime on the defensive. 
Moreover, Swamy is not 
very popular among 
many of his Janata 
Dal(S) colleagues and so 
it was expected that Ra- 
jiv Gandhi would ask 
the Congress(I) to inter- 
cede on his behalf — af- 
ter all, Swamy has 
served as the conduit be- 
tween Shekhar and 
Rajiv. 

In the event, nothing 
went according to plan. 
Despite having sug- 
gested earlier that the 
matter was over and 



done with. Speaker Ray allowed MPs 
.hours and hours of precious par- 
liamentary time to dig the knife into 
Swamy. And Congress MPs, tar from 
defending him, conspicuously ab- 
stained from taking part in the discus- 
sion — some even joined in the calls for 
the errant minister's head. 

The storm subsided when Swamy 
was finally allowed to read out an 
apology, but the behaviour of the 
Congress(I) had convinced many 
observers that the party had changed 
its attitude towards the Shekhar gov- 
ernment. In a letter to the President, 
Rajiv Gandhi had promised Shekhar 
unconditional support. But now, there 
were conditions. As Congress spokes- 
man V.N. Gadgil told the press, his 
party would offer only issue-based 
support to Shekhar. On issues where it 
did not share his views, it would func- 
tion as part of the Opposition. 

That announcement, coupled with 
the party’s willingness to let Swamy be 
thrown to the wolves, sent its own 
message. Rajiv Gandhi may not have 
been ready to pull the plug on Chan- 
dra Shekhar yet. But he was doing 


Congressmen 
feel that the 
government 
owes its 
existence to 
them but is 
remarkably 
unwilling to 
grant them any 
favours 


30 


SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 




everything possible to distanee the 
Congress from Shekhar's ministry. 

W hile it was the Swamy fiiioie that 
set tongues wagging, there had 
been other indications that Rajiv was 
tiring of the alliance with Shekhar. 

Chief among these was the 
Mulayam Singh Yadav issue. It is 
probably fair to say that Chandra 
Shekhar would not have become 
Prime Minister but for Mulayam. Not 
only did Yadav’s MPs help swell the 
number of Janata Dal dissidents, but 
his claim that V.P. Singh was in favour 
of striking a deal with L.K. Advani 
also robbed the Raja of a key issue of 
principle. 

At the time, even Rajiv was not 
averse to the idea of joining up with 
Mulayam. The Congress feared that it 
had lost its Muslim vote-bank to the 
Janata Dal because of Yadav’s popu- 
larity with the minority community. 
But once Mulayam deserted V.P. 
Singh and linked up with the Con- 
gress, the Muslims were certain to 
come with him. Moreover, there was 
the Yadav factor: Mulayam’s back- 

~8UNDAY 1»-19 January 19»i 


. 'O' w 


ward support was regarded as certain 
to neutralise V.P. Singh’s post- 
Mandal posturings. 

Tfien, somewhere along the way, 
Rajiv changed his mind about 
Mulayam. Partly, it was the communal 
riots that swept UP last month. The 
Congress concluded that Mulayam 
was incapable of controlling the situa- 
tion: the Hindus hated him and his 
Provincial Armed Constabulary 
(PAC ) was so communal that it could 
not protect the Muslims. And partly, 
it was the growing realisation that for 
the first time in its history, the Bhar- 
atiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged 
as the most popular party in UP. 

The BJP’s rise is due to Ayodhya 
and the party casts Mulayam as the 
villain in all its speeches and prop- 
aganc’a. Congress leaders from UP 
have been telling Rajiv that when the 
BJP is popular, Muslims always return 
to the Congress fold out of insecurity. 
The elections are then won by whoev- 
er gets the largest chunk of Hindu 
votes. V.P. Singh’s Janata Dal cannot 
get these Hindu votes because the 
Raja claims that Mulayam was acting 


on his instructions. But then, neither 
can the Congress(I) as long as it links 
up with Yadav. 

As the next election will be de- 
cided — in the cow belt, at least — by 
the Hindus and their inflamed sensibi- 
lities, in the wake of Ayodhya, the 
Congress risks committing hara-kiri by 
propping up Mulayam. That, at least, 
IS the way the party’s UP unit sees it. 
But— the argument continuesr— get rid 
of Mulayam and the Hindus’ anger 
will lose its focus and the BJP’s popu- 
larity will fade. 

At present, Rajiv is sold on this 
reasoning and is dismayed by reports 
that the party’s share of the popular 
vote in Ur has plummeted by as much 
as 12 per cent. His solution is two- 
fold. One, the Congress will openly 
criticise Mulayam (without actually 
withdrawing support) and attempt to 
distance itself from him. And two, 
Mulayam should step down as chief 
minister and be accommodated at the 
Centre. 

Chandra Shekhar is slightly bewil- 
dered by the Congress’ change of 
stance. After all, Mulayam’s popular- 



ity among the Muslims and the back- 
wards had been one of the Janata 
Dal(S)'s selling points. But even so, 
he has demonstrated a willingness to 
bring Yadav to Delhi as home minis- 
ter. Mulayam’s place in UP will be 
taken by another Janata Dal(S) 
leader. 

But even this formula is unaccept- 
able to Rajiv. He does not want 
Mulayam as home minister and is un- 
willing to let the Janata Dal govern- 
ment continue in Lucknow: he prefers 
President’s Rule. This, Chandra 
Shekhar will not agree to. 

And finally, there’s Mulayam’s own 
intransigence to be reckoned with. He 
is unwilling to step down and to accept 
any post in Delhi. When the Congress 
clamour for his head got to be too 
much, he flew to Delhi, met Rajiv and 
warned him that he was not averse to 
calling elections in Uttar Pradesh, 
^his IS easy to do because neither the 
Congress nor the Janata Dal can form 
I a government on its own. If 
Mulayam’s government resigns, then 
elections would be the only way out.) 

The threat was unmistakable. The 
Congress would fare poorly in any 
election and Rajiv knows this. 

Nevertheless, the Congress is stick- 
ing to its stand of publicly distancing 
itself from Mulayam. Rajiv will tour 
UP later this month and is expected to 
tear into Yadav in his speeches. 



Rajiv Gandhi: marking time till the | 
election i 

A second area of difference is Pun- 
jab. Rajiv and Shekhar have his- 
toric differences over this issue. In 
June 1984, when most of the country 
was rejoicing over the “success” of 
Operation Bluestar, Shekhar issued a 
statement declaring that it would only 
further alienate the Sikhs and would 
not solve the problem at all. History 
has proved Shekhar right! 

Now, the Congress fears that 


Shekhar— who it perceives as a soft- 
liner on Punjab — ^will give away too 
much to Simranjeet Singh Mann. 

When Mann and the Prime Minister 
met late last month, Shekhar told him 
he would consider amending the Con- 
stitution if this would help satisfy Sikh 
aspirations. He is also believed to 
have promised to consider issuing a 
general amnesty to Sikh vouths and to 
nave discussed the possibility of hold- 
ing elections in Punjab in April or 
May. 

The Congress is strongly opposed to 
most of Mann’s demands. Shortly af- 
ter the Shekhar-Mann meeting, its 
party spokesmen warned the govern- 
ment to desist from any step which 
would “subvert the Constitution” or 
“undermine the unity and integrity” of 
India. 

The government responded by clar- 
ifying that it had never intended to 
find a solution outside the framework 
of the Constitution and that national 
integration was its top priority. 
Obviously, the Congress(I) message 
had hit home. 

Since then, Rajiv has made it clear 
that he does not approve of Chandra 
Shekhar’s Punjab policy and fears that 
the Prime Minister may end up grant- 
ing too many concessions to Mann, 
though it is not even clear how much 
support Mann actually commands 
among the militants. 


THE IRRITANTS H Areas of conflict between Rajiv and Shekhar 





The Cabinet 


Rajiv had said that he wouldn’t 
interfere in ministry-making, but 
was still peeved when the likes 
of Sanjay Singh were included. 


Mulayam Singh 


The Congress wants Mulayam 
Singh Yadav to resign. Shekhar 
would like to make him home 
minister, but Rajiv objects to that 
as well. 


Punjab 


The Congress is now advocating 
a hard line on Punjab and thinks 
that Shekhar is being too kind to 
Simranjeet Singh Mann. 










COVER STORY 


T here have also been countless pin- 
pricks. The Congress is said to 
have asked for only two bureaucratic 
appointments: G. Ramaswamy as 
attorney- general and S. Venkitar- 
amanan as governor of the Reserve 
Bank of India. Both were controver- 
sial appointments — largely because of 
a perceived Reliance connection — and 
in each case, Shekhar had his own 
man for the job, but gave in. 

Nevertheless, the Congress now 
feels that it was not adequately con- 
sulted on other key appointments. 
Some (like the choice of M.K. 
Narayan to be the director of the In- 
telligence Bureau) meet with its 
approval, but several others seem to it 
to be ill-advised. The party is not 
pleased with the choice of General 
O.P. Malhotra (a relative of Shekhar 
confidant Jayant Malhoutraj as Gov- 
ernor of Punjab. It would like to see 
Chintamani Panigrahi as Governor of 
Assam, but the appointment has yet to 
be made. And Rajiv is annoyed that 
he is being held responsible for con- 
troversial appointments that he had 
nothing to do with: the appointment 
of TTN. Seshan as chief election com- 
missioner, it now turns out, was Devi 
Lai’s idea. 

There is dissatisfaction too over the 
choice of ministers. Chandra Shekhar 
did not even consul i Rajiv about the 
composition of his Cabinet and while 



Chandra Shekhar: a surprising 
independence 


the Congress president seems philo- 
sophical about this, his MPs arc 
peeved. Party spokesman V.N. Gadgil 
made the Congress' objections to the 
choice of Sanjay Singh public at a 
press briefing and later P. Shiv Shank- 
ar raised the matter in the Rajya 
Sabha. There is dismay also over the 
choice of Kalyan Singh Kalvi as ener- 
gy minister. Such vocal Congress MPs 
as Jayanthi Natarajan tore into Kalvi 


for his alleged pro-sati views in Parlia- 
ment as the Janata Dal(S) watched 
horrified. 

T he disputes over state chief minis- 
ters do not end with Mulayam, 
though clearly, he is the major irri- 
tant. When the Congress removed 
Chenna Reddy as chief minister of 
Andhra Pradesh, its members lost no 
time in telling the Janata Dal(S) that 
this was how ministers who couldn't 
control communal riots should be tre- 
ated. Shekhar’s men were so annoyed 
by this gratuitous advice that both S.P. 
Malaviya and O.P. Chautala made 
public statements asking the Congress 
to mind its own business and Mulayam 
was also outraged. 

Chautala him.self has been the sub- 
ject of some of the disputes. Nobody 
in the Congress has forgotten how Ra- 
jiv’s political comeback began with his 
trip to Meham in the wake of the 
by-election. Ironically, the party now 
has to support Chandra Shekhar, who 
persists in taking Chautala everywhere 
with him. 

As if this was not bad enough, it 
finds that the Janata Dal(S) expects it 
to hack the Hukum Singh government 
in Haryana. The Congress(I) simply 
cannot agree to this and Veerendra 
Singh, president of the slate unit, has 
announced a massive agitation against 
the ‘misrule’ of the Hukum Singh reg- 



As far as Rajiv Gandhi is 
concerned, Devi Lai and family 
are a major embarrassment and 
he is appalled by moves to make 
Chautala CM of Haryana again. 


Only some of the bureaucratic 
appointments have Rajiv's 
approval. The Congress feels 
ignored in the choice of other key 
officers. 


However much Rajiv Gandhi 
pretends otherwise, his style is 
totally alien to Shekhar’s. This is 
certain to cause strains in the 
relationship. 


SUNDAY 13-19 January' 1991 


33 












ime. Veerendra Singh reckons that if 
elections to the stale Assembly are 
held, the Congress would get a 
majority. 

Meanwhile, Chautala has been up 
to his old tricks again. He had planned 
to get himself re-elected as chief 
minister of Haryana by the auspicious 
day of Makar Sankranti (which, this 
year, falls on 14 .lanuary). His suppor- 
ter Jai Prakash had begun enlisting the 
support of MLAs and Hukum Singh 
had been asked to return to his old job 
of deputy chief minister. 

When the Congress(l) got wind of 
this plan, the party was incensed. A 
message went out that the return of 
Chautala could lead to an immediate 
withdrawal of support and a con- 
cerned Shekhar summoned Chautala 
and asked him to abandon the move. 

There are problems also over 
Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the BJP 
chief minister of Rajasthan. When 


COVER STORY 


V.P. Singh's Janata Dal withdrew sup- 
port to his government, the Congres- 
s(l) favoured the imposition of Presi- 
dent’s Rule. But Chandra Shekhar, 
who likes Shekhawat, arranged for his 
supporters in the Rajasthan Assembly 
to back Shekhawat, much to the Con- 
gress(I)’s chagrin. 

C handra Shekhar's friends argue 
that such differences are inevit- 
able and too much should not be read 
into them. After all, the members of 
the Janata Dal(S) have spent most of 
their political careers opposing the 
Congress(I). Old enmities cannot be 
buried overnight. They claim also that 
the dissatisfaction comes from indi- 
vidual Congress MPs and not from the 
leadership. 

This is partly true. Congress MPs 
have become used to patronage and 
were disconsolate for most of 1990 
because after ten years of power, they 
found themselves shut out of govern- 


ment offices. When Shekhar became 
Prime Minister, they believed that 
happy days were here again. 

In fact, it hasn’t worked out that 
way. Ministers have taken their cue 
from the Prime Minister and because 
he gives the impression that he is not 
beholden to anybody, they have fol- 
lowed his lead. Consequently, the fi- 
nance ministry has turned away scores 
of Congress MPs who came bearing 
petitions, demanding favours and re- 
commending deals. In nearly each 
case, the MPs claimed that they had 
the sanction of 10 Janpath. But be- 
cause Rajiv has told Shekhar that the 
Congress will ask for no favours, 
ministers have disregarded these 
claims and booted the Congressmen 
out. 

The foreign ministry has been no 
different. Officials have been told to 
pay no attention to Natwar Singh or 
Romesh Bhandari and to ignore their 
claims to be acting at the behest of 


THE WORLD ACCORDING TO RAJIV GANDHI 

What the Congress president wants 













COVER STORY 


Rajiv Gandhi. Last year, Bhandari 
went off to West Asia on a peace 
initiative even though the ministry 
told him that it believed that his visit 
would serve no purpose. Finally, when 
Bhandari insisted, it offered informal 
cooperation, but made it clear to its 
embassies that Bhandari did not rep- 
resent the Government of India. 

It is this attitude that angers Con- 
gress MPs. As far as they are con- 
cerned, Chandra Shekhar is in power 
only because of them. And yet, they 
have no power at two distinct levels. 
At the macro/policy level, Shekhar 
has proved to be his own man. And at 
the micro/patronage level, his minis- 
ters have made it clear that they are 
not at all beholden to the Congress(I ). 

Now, say Congress MPs, they have 
responsibility without power. That is 
to say, the party takes the rap tor 
Shekhar's failings, but gets none of the 
benefits associated with power. This 
realisation accounts for much of the 



Shekhar has proved to 
be a surprisingly good 
Prime Minister. He 
knows that he has 
nothing to lose 



belligerence displayed by the Con- 
gress in Parliament. 

S o, will Rajiv pull the plug on 
Shekhar? As of now, the answer 
must be no. He has too much to lose 
and nothing to gain. If Shekhar's gov- 
ernment falls, then an election is the 
inevitable outcome. Opinion polls 
suggest that this would result in 
another hung Parliament (because the 
BJP would cat into the Congress vote 


in the cow belt) and another round of 
deal-making and coalition-building. If 
the Congress got a share of power 
after this election, it would only be 
after it entered into another alliance 
not unlike the one with Chandra 
Shekhar. So, how would an election 
help? 

Moreover, the current perception is 
that Shekhar has made a surprisingly 
good Prime Minister. He is seen as 
being courageous and decisive; as an 
instinctive politician who cares little 
for managing contradictions or sum- 
moning up options on his computer 
screen. If the Congress were to topple 
him now, then it would only work to 
the party’s disadvantage because it 
would be seen as a pointless, destruc- 
tive act. 

On the other hand, India's prob- 
lems are so immense that it is a fair 
assumption that Shekhar will not be 
able to solve them. From the Congres- 


THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CHANDRA SHEKHAR 


What the Prime Minister wants 








COVER STORY 


The twain met 

But can two totally different styl^ ever mesh? 


T hey could not be more unlike 
each other. Chandra Shekhar 
is a Congressman of the old school. 
He believes in socialism, distrusts 
the West, has contempt for conspi- 
cuous consumption and is happiest 
when he is discussing politics with 
trusted friends in a smoke-filled 
room. Rajiv Gandhi is a Nineties- 
style Congressman. He pays lip- 
service to socialism but does not 
believe in it, his cultural reference 
points are from the West, has con- 
tempt for those who talk about au- 
sterity while living grand lives 
themselves, and is happiest when 
everything is out in the open and 
no deal-making is required. 

About all they do have in com- 
nion is that they are Congressmen, 
albeit of different sorts. Both are 
secular in their outlook and work 
to reduce religious and caste di- 
vides. 

And they both hate V.P. Singh. 
It is on these slender areas of 
^reement that Rajiv Gandhi and 
I Chandra Shekhar have sought to 
forge an alliance. More often than 
noU there simply isn’t enough in 
common to make the relationship 
work. And frequently, it is the di^ 
ferences that come to the fore. 

Nevertheless, about one thing 
there cannot be any doubt: the de- 
cision to back Chandra Shekhar 
was entirely Rajiv Gandhi’s own. 
No other person played a signifi- 
cant role. Subramaniam Swamy 
served as Shekhar’s emissary to 
Rajiv Gandhi and R.K. Dhawan 
functioned as Rajiv’s link with 
Chandra Shekhar, but both men 
I . only carried messages from their 
* leaders. All the others who have 
been credited with arranging the 
match (Sharad Pawar, Chimanbhai 
Patel, etc.) did nothing of consequ- 
ence. 

Why did Rajiv do it? Almost 
from the time that V.P. Singh was 
•^elected, sectionsc<of the Congress 
had suggested a deal with Chandra 
^ckhar. At that stage, Rajiv said 
categorical ‘no’. He told Sun- 
- pay: “Wc can only lose from 
^ a deal with Chandra 


that,” Others suggested that Ibevi 
Lai could be part of the same pack- 
age, only to be rebuffed. 

And yet , in November 1990, Ra- 
jiv Gandhi agreed to do precisely 
what he had always said he would 
not: make a deal with Chandra 
Shekhar. What accounted for the 
turnaround? 

The answer seems to lie in the 
rise of the BJP. Rajiv’s calculation 
was that V.P. Singh would call 
elections by early 1991 (either out 
of choice or because his govern- 
ment had fallen) and that the Con- 
gress(I) would easily pick up the 
70-80 cow-belt seats it needed for 
an overall majority. He was con- 
vinced that to seem like an accept- 
able alternative to V.P. Singh, he 
had to remain principled and 
seemingly uninterested in power. 

This calculation collapsed after 


the success of the rath yatra. The 
BJP pulled the plug on V.P. Singh 
when it was convinced that it 
would benefit from an early elec- 
tion. V.P. Singh was willing to take 
the risk too because he thought 
that with Muslim and backward 
class support, the Janata Dal could 
beat the BJP. 

For the Congress, this was a 
bleak period. For the first time 
since 1977, it was no longer setting 
the agenda — or even, was at all 
relevant to the nation's principal 
concerns. At a time of great strife, 
the big issues were those on which 
the Congress had no strong posi- 
tions: Mandal was a Janata Dal 
concern, while Ayodhya was the 
BJP’s issue. 

To go to the polls at such a time 
would have been suicidal for the 
Congress(l). And so, Rajiv was 






COVER STORY 



forced to revise his old position 
and look for a way of buying time 
until both Mandal and Ayodhya 
faded as issues. 

By backing Chandra Shekhar, 
he found the breathing space he 
needed. 

I t is not clear whether the Janata 
Dal(S) or the Congress(l) recog- 
nised that this was the basis of the 
calculation. Janata Dal(S) mem- 
bers gave the impression that they 
did not, when they spoke of mer- 
gers or a government that survived 
for three years. And Congressmen 
seemed similarly deluded when 
they acted as though their party 
had returned to power. 

But neither Shekhar nor Rajiv 
had any illusions about the nature 
of the arrangement. Almost from 
the moment he was sworn in, 
Shekhar made it clear that while he 
was grateful for Congress(I) sup- 
port, he recognised that Rajiv was 
hot doing him any favours. And 
Rajiv was as realistic. At no stage 
did he praise Shekhar or display 




any enthusiasm for him. All he 
, would talk about was the need to 
give the country a |table govern- 
ment' at a time of crisis. 

then/ relations between 
bom men have improved. While 
Rajiv Gandhi is relatively easy to 
dislike at a distance, he is 
tremendously likable on a one-to- 
one level and Shekhar too has fal- 
len victim to his charm. have 
misjudged Rajiv,'" he told friends 
last month. “I find that he has very 
decent instincts. If only he would 
trust those instincts more and listen 
less to his advisere.” 

Rajiv too has managed to partly 
overcome his disdain for Shekhar's 
style of politics and when the two 
men meet, they speak honestly to 
each other without resorting to 
niceties or the complex code- 
phrases of Indian politics. 

It would be wrong, however, to 
suggest that there is any rapport 
between, them. Rajiv Gandhi's 
style is technocratic. He likes con- 
sulting several persons, taking note 
of their recommendations and 
then, working out a list of options. 
Finally, more inputs arc called for 
before an option is selected. 

Shekhar's style is the opposite. 
Despite his open, frank personal- 
ity, ne plays his cards close to his 
chest' and makes his decisions on 
his own, frequently disregarding 
the advice of those closest to him. 

While Rajiv is a computer-era 
politician who organises informa- 
tion before coming to any conclu- 
sion, Shekhar belongs to an earlier 
era and prefers instinct to informa- 
tion when it comes to making a 
decision. 

The conseq^uence of this diverg- 
ence in styles is that it is impossible 
for the two men to function as a 
team — even though they have re- 
spect for each other. Says a Rajiv 
aide: “How can anybody work with 
Chandra Shekhar? You go to see 
him and it is all gossip, gossip, 
gossip for nearly the entire dura- 
tion of the meeting. And then, in 
the last few minutes, he will sud- 
denly take all the key decisions." 

Fortunately. Shekhar and Rajiv 
do not have to work as a team. For 
the moment, all they need to do is 
respect their differences. As long 
'as they manage to do that, the 
alliance will last. 


s(l)'s point of view, it makes much 
more sense to wait till public dissatis- 
faction with the Shekhar regime has 
mounted before pulling the plug. 

Why then is the party being so vocal 
about its differences with Shekhar? 
Mainly, one suspects, because of 
something that Rajiv Gandhi said in 
his Sunday interview last year. He 
said then that he believed that there 
was always a swing against the party in 
power at general elections. This, he 
maintained, explained all elections 
since l%2. There had been two excep- 
tions to this rule: 1971 and 1984. But 
both times, the Congress had recast 
itself to seem like an alternative. (In 
1971 , Mrs Gandhi had shed the Syndi- 
cate; in 1984, Rajiv had just become 
leader.) 

That hypothesis suggests that the 
Congress can only lose from being 
perceived as the party in power. This 
is why Rajiv is doing everything possi- 
ble to distance the Congress from the 
Shekhar government and why he is 
broadcasting the party's position on 


Rajiv sees this 
government as a holding 
operation. He will only 
keep it going till he is 
ready for an election 


such issues as Punjab. When the elec- 
tion comes, he wants the Congress to 
be the alternative, not part and parcel 
of what has gone before. 

As far as Rajiv is concerned, the 
Shekhar government is a holding op- 
eration. When V.P. Singh fell, the 
Congress was not ready for an election 
and so some stop-gap arrangement 
had to be arrived at. Chandra Shekhar 
was that stop-gap. 

Rajiv will keep Shekhar in office — 
while simultaneously distancing him- 
self from the government— till the 
Congress is prepared to fight the next 
general election. 

And when will that be? There is | 
speculation in Delhi that the Congress 
could get its act together before the 
monsoon. But the answer to that will 
emerge only alter Rajiv begins his 
tours of India. If he feels that he can 
win an election, then that will he the 
end of the Shekhar government. But if 
he is still not sure, then Shekhar has 
till after Diwali.* 

Rally ShuMa/New Delhi 



37 




CONTROVERSY 


The 

doomed dam 

A critical report on the Narmada project 
lends fresh impetus to the anti-dam movement 


A nd so the battle of the 
Narmada continues. A 
new government has 
taken over but the oppos- 
ers of the multi-crorc pro- 
ject are as resolute as they were be- 
fore. And even as thousands of tribals 
are preparing for the long march to 
the dam site in Gujarat, hectic lob- 
bying is on in the corridors of power in 
Delhi to persuade the government to 
junk the scheme. 

However, there has been a subtle 
shift of stance by the anti-dam lobby. 
Instead of just highlighting the ecolo- 
gical and environmental problems that 
the mammoth dam would cause, the 
Narmada Bachao Andolan — the 
umbrella organisation which is oppos- 
ing the project — is now trying to draw 
the attention of the authorities to the 
plight of the 1 ,3(),00()-odd tribals who 
would be displaced in the three states 
of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and 
Maharashtra if the dam were to come 
up. And, what has perhaps given a 
fillip to the efforts of the Andolan 
activists is the emergence of the sche- 




duled tribes and scheduled castes com- 
missioner, B.D. Sharma, as a forceful 
spokesman of the anti-dam lobby. The 
senior government official has recent- 
ly been given the task of negotiating a 
solution with the tribals. 

But B.D. Sharma has been some- 
thing of an embarrassment for the 
government. Soon, he began singing 
the tune of the anti-Narmada activists. 
What’s more, he prepared a report in 
which he came down heavily on the 
Centre and all those pushing for the 
project. Sharma wrote: ‘in my opin- 
ion, it is clear that many other de- 
velopment projects, in the case of the 
Sardar Sarovar project as well, there is 
violation of the law, of the Constitu- 
tion and of human rights... Fhe state is 
ignoring its constitutional responsibil- 
ity of protecting the tribals." 

Sharma has also pointed out several 
governmental lapses while clearing the 
project. According to the existing 
Land Acquisition Act, prior notice has 
to be given to the owner before the 
land could be acquired. 1’his, howev- 
er, has not been done in the case of 


Chandra Shekhar has 
turned down repeated 
requests to review the 
ecoh^lical and 
environmental 
aspects of the 
Narmada project. The 
1^ PM is only willing to 
discuss the 
rehabilitation plans of 
those displaced 


the Narmada proiect. As Sharma put 
It, “The law has been pre-empted and 
24S villages have already been ac- 
quired without going through the due 
legal process." Ami aS Andolan 
spokesmen point out, the Centre has 
also violated the directive principles of 
state policy of the ('oristitution of In- 
dia which says that “the stale shall 
promote with special care the educa- 
tional and economic interests of the 
weaker sections of the people and 
shall protect them from social injustice 
and all forms of exploitation". 

In his report, which was tabled in 
Parliament in the last session, Sharma 
has also pointed out that “the discus- 
sion m all contexts through my report 
finalK leads to the same point, and 
that IS, the disregard of the ordinary 
people... The very existence of the 
tribals are at stake. About 15 per cent 
of them have already been displaced 
in one form or the other. They have 
kwt cverv thing they had in the pro- 
cess Sharma even cited the inst- 
ance of the Andamans, where de- 
velopment projects have “finished at 
least 11 tribal groups". 


38 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 





With the Centre 
refusing to budge, 
the only way out 
seems to be 
confrontation... 
"This is a fight to 
the finish. Tribals 
from all over the 
country will join 
us in our 

strug^e,” asserts 
a Bhil from 
Rajasthan 


P redictably, the exhaustive 424- 
page report has started gathering 
dust. It never came up tor discussion 
in the last session. But an undaunted 
Sharma did not give up. Recentlv, m 
an unprecedented move, the SC ST 
.commissioner wrote to the altornev- 
general asking him to take proper ac- 
tion in the matter: “May 1 formallv 
request you to bring to the notice of 
the government and also the F^irlia- 
ment the serious breaches of constitu- 
tional safeguards and advise them 
accordingly so as to ensure that the 
voice of the tribal people is heard." 

Meanwhile, the tribals are gearing 
up to take on the goveinment 
Around 50() arti-Narmada activists 
camped in New Delhi lor days to meet 
the Prime Minister C handra Shekhar, 
of course, has turned down repeated 
requests to review the ecological and 
environmental aspects of the project. 
According to Smitu Kothari, a spokes- 
man of Andolan, the Prime Minister 
said that he was only willing to discuss 
the rehabilitation plans of those dis- 
placed. And the PM has reportedly 
asked for a month’s time within which 
he promised the government would 


come up with a concrete rehabilitation 
scheme. But, as Kothari planted out, 
the three state governments have not 
e\en drawn up a list of available land 
for rehabilitation purposes m the last 
ten years, “ rhey don't even have ihe 
faintest idea where they will rehabili- 
tate 1,3U.<M)0 people and yet they have 
started construction on the dam,” 
complained a bitter Kothaii 

With the Centre, thus, reiusmg to 
budge, the cmlv way oik seems to be 
confrontation .And the tiibals are pre- 
pared for that. The Min^hars/i yuiris 
are presently camping just half-a- 
kilometre from the C-uiaral bolder, 
walling patiently foi the call i»t then 
leaders to break all bairieis and 
swarm the dam site. So far, all threats 
b\ the Ciujarat government have 
failed to deter the ‘lr»bals. 

“The whole scenario resembles a 
batll^jfield," said Di Vinayan, presi- 
dent of the Ma/door Kisan Sangram 
Samiti. the peasant organisation ban- 
ned by the Bihar government. 
Vinayan is one of ’he member^ of the 
six-nember observ er team constituted 
by Andolan to survey the dam site. 
Acco.’-ding to him and Piyus Tirkey of 


the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the 
dam area in CJujarat at the moment is 
packed with security personnel and 
Section 144 has been ciamped to keep 
away the agitationists 
Tirkey also alleged that the Gujarat 
government was spreading rumours — 
like if the tiibals dared to enter Gu- 
jarat they would be lynched by the 
I locals — to scare away the ir’bals. “In 
I fact," said Tirkey, “the tribals of CJu- 
' jarat were preparing to welcome the 
I Andolan activists and were dead 
^ against the presence of the cops in the 
area . " 

I The battle lines, thus, are clearly 
, dr.'vvn. The government is determined 
to go ahead with the Narmada project, 
, while the tribals are equally adamant 
' not to let the dreaded diim come up. 
i As Lai Shankai Kaigi. a Bhil from 
Rajasthan, put it: “This is a fight to 
I the finish. I'ribals from all over the 
I country will join us in our struggle." If 
I the present mood of the anti-Narmada 
i activists IS any indication, the new 
government of Chandra Shekhar is m 
for trouble. • 

Minu Jain/New Delhi 


SUNDAY 1 9 January 1 99 1 


39 






Changing 

stripes 

In a surprise turnaround, the 
Sri Lankan Tigers sue for peace 


T O many, it had just as much 
credibility as a typical New 
Year’s eve resolution. 
When the message from the 
Liberation Tigers of Tamil 
Eelam (LTTE) reached Colombo on 
29 December, it was met with a mix- 
ture of shock, disbelief and suspicion. 
Handed over to President R. Pre- 
madasa’s government by the Jaffna 
office of the Red Cross, the note said: 
the LTTE will declare a unilateral and 
indefinite ceasefire from 31 December 
midnight — the stroke of the New 
Year. 

But soon enough, it was clear that 
the LTTE was serious. A statement 
issued by the London office of the 
Tamil militant organisation said that it 
was “prepared to enter into peace 
talks” if the Sri Lankan government 
■ responded positively. “However, our 
Liberation Army will reserve the right 
to defensive actions," the statement 
cautioned. 

If the LTTE's sudden turnaround 
caught observers off guard, it was 
partly because all earlier attempts to 
reach a political settlement had been 
initiated by the government. Moreov- 
er, the Tigers had a habit of ’laying 
down many conditions tor accepting a 
cessation of hostilities. I'liis time, the 
ceasefire offer was prett\ much inu nn- 
ditional. 

As the LTTE itself pointed out in a 
press statement, “The unilateral deci- 
sion to observe ceasefire has placed 
the entire responsibility with the Sri 
Lankan government whether to main- 
tain peace or continue waging w.ir." 
The onus, in other words, was on Pie 
madasa who — from all appearances— 
was placed in something of a spot. 

To have welcomed the Tiger offer 
and rushed into negotiations would 
have been politicalU hazardous. 
Already, there is a widespread feeling 


in the Sinhala-dominated south that 
the President has been far too naive 
when dealing with the LTTE. The 
peace agreement he entered into with 
the militants early last year broke 
down within months — a period, it is 
believed, that the LTTE used to re- 
group and tone up its military 
machine. To be ‘betrayed’ a second 
time, would have meant further 
embarrassment and loss of face. 

Moreover, to have unhesitatingly 
grasped the olive branch meant risking 
the displeasure of Ihe armed forces. 
The Sri Lankan military has for long 
believed that the ‘Tiger menace’ 
would have been eradicated if it 
wasn’t for political interference. One 
of its biggest grouses is former Presi- 
dent J.R. Jayewardene’s halting of 
army operations in mid- 1987 — a deci- 
sion that he was pressured into taking 
by the Indian government. The 
army — which had the Tigers holed up 


Premidasa; Hmited options 




and surrounded in Jaffna at that 
time — ^feels it could have wiped them 
out if allowed to. Therefore, agreeing 
to an indefinite ceasefire — especially, 
in the absence of guarantees for a 
lasting peace — would not have gone 
down well with the military. 

At the same time, Premadasa could 
hardly afford to spurn the peace offer. 
The six-month war that his govern- 
ment has been waging against the 
LTTE has only led to a costly stale- 
mate. The armed forces may have 
cleared the LTTE of most of the towns 
in the island’s north-east, but the Ti- 
gers have the run of the countryside 
and their frequent attacks on military 
camps have killed hundreds of sol- 
diers. So, to have rejected the LTTE’s 
initiative would have entailed more 
than just appearing hostile and intran- 
sigent. It would have destroyed the — 
admittedly slender — hope of a politic- 
al settlement and led to the continua- 
tion of a seemingly futile and unwinn- 
able war. 

I t is understandable then why Pre- 
madasa chose the middle course be- 
tween welcoming the LTTE offer and 
discarding it outright. His govern- 
ment’s response to the LTTE’s cease- 
fire proposal was extremely cautious. 


40 


•UNDAY 13-19 JMNMry 1W1 






The LTTE: keeping Cokmilio guesting 


It informally asked the armed forces Colombo stated, would continue to 
to call off their operations, but de- patrol the north-east and it would 
dared at the same time: “We need at treat the carrying of weapons by any 
least three days to assess the genuine- LTTE cadre as an infringement. This 
ness of the declared intentions of the was a departure from the last time the 
LTTE.” Tigers and Colombo agreed to keep 

Premadasa went on to use this time the peace. The army was asked to stay 
to try and evolve a political consensus in the barracks while the LTTE moved 
on the Tiger proposal. An all-party about freely, 
meeting — which was attended by 20 

organisations — was convened on 3 ^There were a number of theories 
January. Although many feared that I about why the LTTE offered to 
the Tigers were not serious, most — negotiate with Colombo. The most 
including Mrs S. Bandaranaike’s Sri popular was that the war had 
Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which weakened the Tigers, who were 
didn’t attend the meeting — welcomed forced — due to the heavy casualties 
the ceasefire offer. Bandaranaike, they suffered — to sue foi peace. Pre- 
however, demanded that four condi- dictably, the LTTE pooh-poohed this 
tions be met before the President sat explanation. “We are not weak. Wo 
across the negotiating table with the control 91) per cent of the territory in 
Tigers again. Among them, a declara- the north,” said the organisation's 
tion against the possession and use of Lonejon-based leader, Krishnakumar 
arms by the Tigers and the restoration Kittu. 

of civil administration in the north- Another hypothesis attributed the 
east. LTTE’s turnaround to the recent ac- 

Assured that the Opposition was tion taken by the Tamil Nadu govern- 
willing to give the peace initiative a ment Fearing dismissal over allega- 
chance, the Sri Lankan government tions that the LTTE w as being allowed 
extended the cessation of hostilities to have the run of the state, chief 
for a further seven days. But it made minister M. Karunar.idhi had rounded 
sure that the ceasefire would be main- up its cadres in the state and increased 
tained on its own terms. The army, surveillance of the coastal areas. This 


put an end to the smuggling of arms 
and other supplies from the state and 
thereby crippled the Tigers, this 
theory went. 

The LTTE, however, had its own 
explanation for its behaviour. It main- 
tained that the ceasefire offer was 
made to allow international relief 
agencies to work freely in the Tamil 
areas. The war, it claimed, had led to 
the civilian population suffering from 
both starvation and illness. 

It may be tempting to dismiss this as 
a poor excuse made by an organisation 
on the defensive. But it is undeniable 
that the war has all but ravaged the 
Tamil regions — particularly, the 
northern districts (See: 'The siefne of 
Jaffna Sum) ay dated 23—29 Septem- 
ber 1990). The LTTE — despite claims 
to the contrary — does enjoy and de- 
pend on mass support and thereby 
cannot ignore the plight of the civi- 
lians altogether. Therefore, it may be 
a mistake to reject the LTTE’s ex- 
planation as just so much hogwash. 

The crucial question, however, is 
whether the ceasefire will lead to a 
resumption of negotiations. And here, 
there is already what appears to be an 
intractable problem. The Sri Lankan 
government has announced that any 
talks will be preceded by a declaration 
“against the possession and use of 
firearms by any persons other than 
those authorised by law”. In other 
words, it won’t negotiate with the 
LTl’E unless it surrenders its arms. 
The LTTE has ruled this out. Said 
Kittu: “There is no question of our 
laying down weapons. Putting them 
away is unacceptable tc> us." 

Even if the two parlies are able to 
find a way to break this impasse. Pres- 
ident Premadasa will be far more con- 
strained in dealing w'ith the Tigers this 
time around, llis decision to hold un- 
conditional talks with the LITE last 
year ended in embarrassment and fai- 
lure He is unlikely to negotiate with 
the l.TTE a second lime unless he is 
ibsolutcly certain that the militants 
are willing to reach a political settle- 
ment. 

Talks, however, are a long way 
away. At the moment, both sides 
seem intent on maintaining the cease- 
fire(of which there have already been 
two infringementsXNevertheless, most 
observers believe it would be a mis- 
take to attach too much significance to 
the recent developments. In Sri 
Lanka, after all, peace has been a far 
more elusive commoditv than war.* 

R, Bhagwan Singh andMukund 
Padmanabhan 


SUNDAY 1S-19 JMHMry 1991 


41 


Rousseau^s POSTmCOmitACt 


M * 



A 5BRVICE SHOULD BE TAILOHEP TS A PEkSDNS WEEDS 


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Newton’s FOURTH LA IV 


WHATEVER IS FOSTEPMUST BE PELIVEEEP 


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Darwin 's NA TURAL SELECTION 


ONLY WL MOST RELIABLE SHALL SURVIVE 


SPEED POST : Reliable, Time-bound 



Einstein s verdict on POSTAL LIMIT 


POST SHALL NOT EXCEED THE SPEED OF LIGHT 

^^SSSSSSSmSm SPEED POST Z Fastest Transmission 


Unique Features: 

Personalised Contract Service to any 
destination in Lidia. Money Transfer 
Facility. Book^lranr Own Articles . 

Aks -av^pitATAP 







Dog-day kn^;lits 

Jharkhand activists turn the heat on CPI(M) workers 


T Ihey look like living anachron- 
isms or vaudeville knights in 
'their tin-plate armour. They are 
CP1(M| volunteers guarding their vil- 
lages, dotted across the auburn plains 
of Midnapore, against surprise attacks 
by Jharkhand sharpshooters* The two 
sides are fighting an insidious war for 
supremacy in the tribal-dominated 
areas of this West Bengal district and 
the clashes seem to jnave become more 
frequent and frenzied of late. 

Midnapore has all along been the 
killing field of fradKous forces. In the 
early Eighties, the CPI(M) battled the 
Congress to consondate its bases after 
the Left Front came to power in 1977. 
From 1986, however, it has had to 
reckon with resurgent tribal power, as 
the Jharkhand Mhkti Morcha (JMM) 
began a concerted effort to tilt the 
balance in its favour. During the initial 
CPKM) onslaught, the Jharkhand 
supporters too had felt the brunt of 
the Marxists' wrath. In the CPI(M) 
bastion of Keshpur, for instance, 
many Jharkhana workers turned 
'Marxists’ overnight to save them- 
selves. Those who didn't, suffered. 

With the Jharkhand workers arming 
themselves and vowing to extirpate 
the Marxists from the tribal areas, the 
tide turned against the CPl(M). The 
party shuffled into the defensive as 
violent tribal activists — often backed! 
by the Congress and CPl(M) dissi- 
dents — launched sporadic attacks on 
Marxist strongholds, with the harvest 
season, stretching from October to 
December, witnessing the bloodiest of 
clashes. 

In Anandpur and Chakra, two well- 
known CP1(M) bases in eastern Midn- 
apore, the menfolk today are more 
busy guarding their villages than 
working the fields for winter crops. 
They are in a state of permanent alert, 
waiting for tip-offs to go into defence 
formations around the villages with 
bows, arrows, swords and other im- 
provised weapons to beat back the 
Jharklmnd assaults. The JMM is de- 
sperately trying to dislodge the Marx- 
ists from these areas and set up its 
offices. But the re^on’s predominant- 
ly Muslim population, which genuine- 
ly believes that left rule has improved 
tlieir lot, is fiercely defending the reds 


against the JMM’s 'green brigade'. In 
the forest-clad western part of the dis- 
trict, however, » the party rules sup- 
reme and its armed bands go on the 
rampage from time to time despite a 
large presence of security personnel 
belonging to the Eastern Frontier 
Rifles and the West Bengal Armed 
Police. 

The tribal hit-squads, comprising 
mainly Santhals, are generally armed 
with traditional weapons, but the dis- 
trict superintendent of police, P.N. 
Saha, and a local CPl(M) ML A, Sun- 
dar Hazra, say they are also ac^mring 
guns and bombs, making their ^trikes 


IMaraM vohmtoora: on their gu^ 

increasingly lethal. According to 
Saha, '^These Jharkhandis don't have 
any prominent leaders in this region. 
Theirs is not a political movement; 
they are moving like the medieval 
thugees— pouncing on villages and 
going on a robbing spree. Many listed 
criminals are leading the local Jhar- 
khandis in plundering the villages at 
gunpoint.” 

In the last three months, the Jhar- 
khand activists have wreaked havoc in 
at least 25 villages where about 30 
houses were looted and razed to the 
ground. Nearly 500 terrified and 
homeless villagers fled their hamlets' 
and took shelter in school buildings at 
Anandpur and Chakra. Others sought 
refuge with relatives living elsewhere. 

In villages close to the JMM- 


dominated areas, landowners, who 
are mostly CPI(M) supporters, are 
being taxed by the Jharkhand activists 
before being allowed to take their har- 
vest home. Others are being forced to 
enroll with the JMM, and, in many 
cases, the crops belonging to CPI(M) 
sympathisers are being forcefully har- 
vested. 

JMM sources, however, accuse the 
CPI(M) of resorting to violence as 
well in trying tb regain lost ground. 
They complain that the police plays a 
partisan role by arresting the Jhar- 
khand activists only and ' . letting the ' 
CPI(M) workers go scot free. But su- 


perintendent of police Saha denies the 
charge. 

Though the battle pL attrition be- 
tween the two parties has^ been going 
on for some years now, the recent 
spurt in the Jharkhand movement with 
the JMM setting a deadline for the' 
Centre to concede its demand for a' 
separate state, has increased the wor- 
ries of the state administration. Midn- 
apore forms part of the JMM's greater 
Jharkhand concept and the party's 
growing influence in the district's trib- 
al areas could spell disaster for the 
leftists. Over the last four months, the 
CPI(M) remained largely defensive, 
as its supporters were busy harvesting 
and protecting their produce. But now* 
the* fields are empty and the red 
knights are free to begin the offensive. 




•UNDAV 13-18 Jranr 1981 


43 




l^bu don't kave to ke tke world's 
youngest grandmaster to ke a Raymond's man. 





When, in 1987 at the age of 
18, Viswanathan Anand 
became India’s first 
grandmaster, he was also the 
world’s youngest, launched on 
a brilliant career which would 
see him in 1989 beat former 
world champion Boris ^ssky 
at the 4th International Games 
Festival in Cannes, France. 


Too young to be checked 
by his own mates, still, he is 
not beyond making a few 
dashing moves when fittingly 
attired — e.g., in this blue/grey 
Jodhpuri made from a 
polyester-wool combination 
aptly called “Sapphire”. 

You don’t have to be 
a jewel in India's chess crown 


Chaitra-D \HB 1990 


At the 

National Housing liuik, 
we have a mission to 
atromplish. 

To lielp m;ike even' 
Indian’s * wire in a lifetime 
dream e»me true. 

A (.liram of a house 
( )f ( ine's ( )\vii 

An inspiring challenge 

\1 IB was thus Isom » if a 
commitment to the housing 
neetls of an entire nation. 

'Iw I years ag( i. 

As a v\ holly owiied 
subsidiars of the Reserve 
Rink of India. 

.^n apex institution to 
promote, .strengthen and 
■supjron the tonntty’s housing 
finiuice .system. 

''X'( irking t( iwards tl ic- g( xtl 
of “Shelter for AH’’ ^'ith the 
motto “Small .Man First". 

'I he ta.sk Ixlbre us is laily 
.stupendi lus 

'Xhat witli a colo.ssal 
.shoilagt' of housing. Scarce 
buildable land. liscalating 
c( II istaitiic in cx xsts At kI 
h( lusing Incoming 
inu'rasingly unallorilable for 
a Lu ge .segment of our 
|iopulation 


Making shelter |x issible on 
this .scale is a daunting /j ^ 

challenge. 

But for NHB’s Ixuxl of 
dtxlicatcxl professionals 

dntwn from various L j/ome of our 

disciplines it is the life force 

of iiKir niksi ,, most privileged ben 

A dedicated commitment ^ 


NHB’s flagship pn^^mime 

tlie unique Home Ixian 
Account .Scheme - is a 
reflection of that commitment. 

A scheme that makes 
owning a house a pos.sibilily 
for every Indian. 

But NHB is also promoting 
the cause- of housing in other 
w-a\'s. 

By refinancing Ickuis to 
individuals through Rinks, 
housing fiuuice companies 
and OKipc-rative iustitutions 

Facilitating proje-d loiuis Ibr 
land dcx-eloi'iment to public 
agencies, profc*s.sion;i] 
develoixers and cxxxperalixes. 

Sup|xirting rental housing 
projexts. 

Assi.sting building mate-rial 
industrie.s. 

In tki. NI Hi lus alreacfr 
clLsbursc-d over Rs. 250 (.tores 
To help provide shelter to 
over one lakh families. 

Our .sights are set even 
higher in the yc*ars to come. 

(kt the long journey ahead 
that we are detemiinc-d to 
ex imi 'ic-te. 



Housing for millions. We’re making it happen. 



|("ficiaries have only a dream in their pockets. 




11 NATIONAL 
LII_J HOUSING BANK 

( Wholly owned by the Re.scr\'e Bank i>f India > 

Hindjjjtdn Times House 6th Floor 'S-20 Kdsturba Gandh; New >lh ' 
Bombay Lite Buildhig 3-1 Fluor 45 Veer Naiimar^ Road Fori Bombav 400 023 


Ol'R GOAL : SHELTER FOR ALL 








Peace be with you 


The Dalai Lama conducts the Kalachakra Tantra at Samath 


T he Gulf, Saddam Hussein 
and the frightening prospect 
of a third World War 
seemed a long way off, as 
two-and-a-half lakh people 
from all over the globe congregated at 
Sarnath in the last week of the decade 
to chant prayers for peace. The occa- 
sion: the Kalachakra Tantra, or rite of 
initiation carried out by the 14th Dalai 
Lama, His Holiness Tonzin Gyatso. A 
sea of humanity, much of it swathed in 
saffron and maroon, watched the liv- 
ing god' initiate hundreds of young 
monks and lamas into an ancient tan- 
tric discipline, comprising seven 
stages, and sometimes, attainable af- 
ter seven incarnations. 

Of the hundreds of Buddhist tan- 
tras, the Kalachakra (or wheel of 
time) is the most important, prepar- 
ing, as it does, newly-initiated monks 
to renounce worl(tl> passions and de- 
sires and devote themselves to a life of 
compassion for all living beings. The 
Dalai Lama has conducted this cere- 
mony several times — the last to be 
held in India was at Bodh Gaya in 
1985 — for the benefit of monks at 


different stages of evolution and to 
spread world peace. And the Cere- 
mony was particularly relevant at this 
point in time, when the world seems 
poised precariously on the brink of 
war. 


Preceding the actual ceremony were 
little moral lessons from lesser lamas. 
After a day of Tibetan folk dancing 
and music, the participants were 
apprised of the health hazards of 
smoking and told that it was a very 


MONKS AT WORK 

The arrangements made by them were quite awesome 






48 


COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS JAGDISH YADAV 


8IIIIMY 13-19 JWHiwy 1091 




The Dalai Lama, sitting on a specially-constructed platform adorned 
with tankhas and garlands of marigold, initiates the assembled 
monks and lamas into the Kalachakra Tantra 



expensive habit, besides. Then, 
amidst great ritual, the Dalai Lama 
himself began the initiation, smiling 
benignly and pausing at times to en- 
sure that every one of the lakhs 
gathered there had been served tea. 

T he three-day initiation at Sarnath 
authorised practice of the first of 
the two stages involved in the tantra: 
the stage of generation in which the 
practitioners visualise themselves as 
ideal beings, or a Buddha. But not all 
of those gathered under the gigantic 
shamiana were to be initiated; many 


of .them were there just to hear the 
Dalai Lama preach and better them- 
selves spiritually. And as they chanted 
mantras in unison, with sacred red 
threads on their forearms and holding 
sheaves of kasha grass in their hands, 
they forgot the hardships they had 
faced to get to Sarnath (many of them 
had arrived in lickety buses and Mata- 
dors, packed like sardines), and the 
discomfort of having to live in 
crowded tents and wash themselves at 
public tankers on dusty streets. 

Eva Eros and her husband, for inst- 
ance, had travelled all the way from 


THE PILGRIMS 

Chanting mantras in unison, kusha grass in hand 



Budapest to participate in the event. 
While Eva hoped that her unborn 
child was a Buddhist, her husband dis- 
closed how he had given up drugs after 
meeting the Dalai Lama. The Eroses 
were not alone; hundreds of Wester- 
ners have converted to Buddhism and 
Sarnath is a necessary pilgrimage. 

Ironically enough-^nsidering that 
the Buddha was bom in India and the 
religion first took root here — ^there 
were hardly any Indians to be seen at 
the ceremony. But the Tibetan pre- 
sence was, understandably, over- 
whelming. Tara Lobsang, who like 
hundreds of her compatriots has made 
Dharamsala and Karnataka her home 
after being forced to flee her home- 
land, confessed that the Kalachakra 
was “the experience of a lifetime for 
her". She said: “I get peace just listen- 
ing to his sermons. He is the greatest 
Buddhist teacher alive today." 

Nicholas Gent from Maryland, 
USA, agreed: “There is something so 
accessible and lovable about the Dalai 
Lama, that he instantly draws people 
to him." And indeed, the Dalai Lama, 
swaying gently from side to side as he 
preached the doctrine of the Buddha, 
was a comforting figure for ail his dis- 
ciples. Said Max Korsten, a young be- 
liever from Belgium: “His efforts at 
world peace may actually make Sad- 
dam Hussein realise that he has gone 
too far in the Gulf. Maybe he will 
withdraw." 

Political concerns were also much in 


SUNDAY 13-19 JwMJwy 1991 





RELIGION 



PRAYING FOR PEACE 

he Gulf, Saddam Hussein and the prospect of a war seemed a long way off 


evidence at the press conference orga- 
nised for the benefit of the local 
media. Asked whether the Chinese 
would ever heed his messages for 
peace and free Tibet, the Dalai Lama 
said that he hoped that the Tibetans* 
would one day regain their mother- 
land; and that he would then renounce 
his political leadership. Of the grow- 
ing communal tensions in India, the 
Dalai Lama disclosed that he was not 
unduly perturbed. The problems 
would sort themselves out, for the 
country was Aryavaita, a land steeped 
in tradition, where ancient values still 


existed. 

Temporal matters, however, were 
soon junked for the elaborate reli- 
gious rites to get underway. 

S eated on a specialljr-constructed 
platform adorned with tankhas 
and garlands of marigold, the Dalai 
Lama besan the Kalachakra ritual. 
The mandala (the abode of the gods) 
had been constructed out of coloured 
sand, to be thrown open to the public 
after the ritual and eventually des- 
troyed, as per custom. The Dalai 
iLama’s elevated throne was sur- 


ENTERTAINMENT 


Tibetan folk music and dance was the standard fare 



rounded by monks and the chosen 
llamas, one of them as young as five 
years. 

The importance of the altruistic mo- 
tive cannot be pver-stressed, ex- 
plained the greatest living Buddhist 
teacher of our times, speaking in the 
Tibetan language with an English 
translation available on an FM fre- 
quency for foreigners. 

Each of the seven stages of initia- 
tion was compared to a specific activ- 
ity oir stage in childhood. The first two 
initiations purify the body. The first, 
the water initiation, purifies the five 
constituents — earth, water, fire, wind 
and space — and was compared to a 
mother’s washing her new-born baby. 
The second stage, the crown initia- 
tion, purifies the five aggregates — 
form, feeling, discrimination, com- 
positional factors and consciousness — 
and was compared to fixing up the hai^ 
on top of a child’s head. 

'the third and fourth initiations 
purify speech, the basis of which is 
wind, or inner currents. 'The Silk Rib- 
bon initiation purifies the ten winds 
(inner currents) and was likened to. 
piercing the ears of a child and adorn- 
ing it with ornaments. The Vajra and 
Bell initiation is also associated with 
purifying speech. It cleanses the ave- 
nues through which the wind, that is 
the basis of speech, moves and can be 
compared to a child’s laughing and 
talking. 

'The fifth and sixth initiations purify 
the mind. The Conduct initiation, 





used io cleanse the six Sense powers — 
eyes, ears, nose, body and the mental 
faculties — was compared to a child’s 
enjoying the five attributes of the 
realm of desire: pleasant visible forms, 
sounds, odours, tastes and tangible 
objects. At the penultimate stage 
came the Name initiation, with stu- 
dents being bestowed names by the 
lama in accordance with their lineage. 

The seventh and last initiation, the | 
Permission initiation, purifies bliss. 
Compared to a father’s telling a child I 
what to read, this last stage bestowed 
the Kalachakra Tantra on students, so 
that they, in turn, can teach others. 

F ew of the thousands gathered at 
Sarnalh could have benefitted ful- 
ly from the initiation. But as a Tibetan 
monk, Lobsang Tsering, explained: 
*'Each person receives initiation at the 
level they are prepared for. At subse- 
quent initiations, they will go higher | 
and higher.” And, as scores of people j 
circumambulated the Sarnath monas- j 
tery in the early morning and lit can- 
dles for their ancestors, with soothing I 
chants pervading the air, it was easy to 
believe that. 

Barring a mild lathi-charge, when 
the local police attempted to stall the 
crowd that surged into the field where j 
the ceremony was being held, the I 
Kalachakra Tantra passed off peace- 
fully. The arrangements made by the 
monks were quite awesome — more 

SUNDAY 1»~19 January 1^1 


than 120 of them worked overtime to 
ensure that every person present re- 
ceived a cup of tea, a blade of kmha 
grass (to put under one’s pillow to see 
a vision in sleep) and the purifying 
sacied red thread. In the community 
kitchen, Tibetan pulao was kept cook- 
ing, with clarified butter, raisins and 
nuts, and four young monks stirred 
the mixture in gigantic utensils with 
paddle-like spoons. “Nobody goes 
hungry here,” said one young monk. 

Outside, lining the streets of Sar- 
nath, was a veritable mela, with hun- 

THE DALAI LAMA 

“The great living Buddhist teacher" 




i 

^ ! 


dreds of enterprising locals and Tibe- 
tans vending everything from miracle 
cures to cabbages and makeshift jute 
sleeping-bags. 

Stephanie Murray, from Idaho, 
USA, was disappointed by this year’s 
ceremony, though, complaining that it 
was held in a “very plain” venue. The 
first Kalachakra she attended, she re- 
counted, was at Deer Park, close to 
Madison, Wisconsin, and had a mes- 
merising effect on her and her family. 
Ever since then they became devotees 
of the Dalai Lama, and even sponsor 
the schooling of a young lama. 

At the end of the first day’s initia- 
tion rites, the Dalai Lama blessed 
dozens of green sacks containing seeds 
for four million saplings of guava, 
apricot, walnut and papaya trees, spe- 
cially gathered by devotees for the 
occasion. Sponsors, who had donated 
funds to make the event possible, 
were entrusted with the responsibility 
of distributing seeds all over the 
world. Anne Camacho, clutching one 
of the green scaks to take to Brazil, 
said: “The Dalai Lama has sown the 
seeds for peace in the world, and we 
will sow these fruit trees as tangible 
reminders of this Kalachakra.” 

And as the sun set on the last day of 
the Kalachkara and the Dalai Lama 
undertook a walk for world peace, 
amity and accord didn't seem half as 
elusive as they did before. • 
ShkwESkMnm/Sanmlh 





TRADE/FOREIGN RELATIONS 

Sam? Uncle Sam? 

Despite reservations, India may have to look to 
the United States to fix some of its ills 


I n Washington D.C.and New 
York, the nerve-centres of the 
world's most powerful eco- 
nomy, both key US and Indian 
policy-makers and analysis are 
pessimistic about the state of Indo-US 
business ties and India’s future in the 
world economy - 

Seen from two continents away, In- 
dia appears an increasingly marginal 
player in global economics and the 
domestic vision of India as an indust- 
rial force tf) be reckoned with, or as 
the unquestioned champion of the 
South economic bloc, seems laugh- 
able. 

•‘We have this tendency in India to 
say that such and such country is a 
special case,'’ says Jagdish Bhagwati, 
eminent trade economist and profes- 
sor at New York’s Columbia Universi- 
ty. “But eventually, we'll just end up 
being a special basket-case ourselves." 

US policy-makers are equally dis- 
heartened by Indo-US business rela- 
tions. “(jiven the size of the Indian 
economy, there is markedly lower in- 
terest m India than with other coun- 
tries in the region," says Peter Collins, 
director o1 South-East Asian and Indi- 
an Affairs at the office of the US 
Trade Representative. “And the sense 
we have is that people have just de- 
cided that India is too much trouble, 
that they don’t even try to begin focus- 
sing on India as a poiential place for 
investment, that they just look else- 
where to begin with." 

Indian officials in the US do not 
deny these criticisms. “We cannot de- 
fend it, but we must defend it," says a 
senior Indian embassy official in 
Washington D.C., of how the embas- 
sy's commercial section must explain 
India's poor indi;.>trial and trade poli- 
cies to US business. A sign of low 
prioiily given to international trade, 
the official complains, is that the* 
embassy's commercial section is often 
not informed by New Delhi of impor- 
tant policy changes on foreign trade 


and investment. 

While this is true, the problem 
stems not as much from low priorities 
as it does from the fact that the Indian 
government is not very sure about 
how exactly to go about attracting 
foreign investment, and boost trade. 
Recent administrations — be it Rajiv 
Gandhi’s, V.P. Singh’s or Chandra 
Shekhar’s brand new effort — have al- 
ways hedged on spelling out concrete 
policy. Because, liberalisation of fore- 
ign investment is a touchy topic in 
India, and liberalisation of imports is 
as touchy from the economics point of 
view. So, it has always been a case of 
“yes, we want foreign investment, but 
entirely on our terms, and the same 
oes for imports”. All the while, 
owever, India has pushed for its own 
investments and exports abroad. 

The effect has been counter- 
productive. While other South-East 
Asian countries have welcomed fore- 


ign investment and boosted exports, 
India has done neither. In 1990, Indi- 
a’s export growth rate actually drop- 
ped, from .15 per cent to 24. And if 
rupee trade deals are included, to 12 
per cent. Meanwhile, imports in- 
creased, and for the financial year 
1990-91, the trade deficit is estimated 
to be Rs 10,400 crores, up from the 
usual level of about Rs 8,(100 crores. 

As far as direct foreign investments 
go, India’s share is a mere Rs .100 
crores a year, as compared to Rs 4,0(K) 
crores for China, over Rs 2,(KX) crores 
for Thailand, Rs 1,2(K) crores for In- 
donesia and marginally less than that 
for Malaysia. 

This dismal performance seems 
even more pathetic when one consid- 
ers what a mess India’s economy is in. 
Our budget deficit could be as high as 
Rs 14,000 crores and our revenue 
shortfall is alarming. We have 20 days 
worth of foreign exchange for our im- 



The US is a 
crucial factor in 
how India is 
perceived 
abroad — for 
loans, and for 
projecting a 
climate of 
investment. And 
as a trading 
partner. Whether 
India likes it or 
not 





52 


SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 




ports, and we are forced to go to the 
World Bank and the International 
Monetary Fund (IMF) to get bailed 
out. Last week, the Indian govern- 
ment confirmed that it will go to the 
IMF to borrow US $2-2.5 bilIion(Rs 
3,600-4,5(K) crores).This will add to 
India's already crippling foreign debt 
of Rs 1,30,(K)() crores. If foreign in- 
vestments were allowed, at least part 
of India's money problem would be 
solved. 

T he government admits this but 
typically, is not saying anything 
outright. This could be problematic, 
especially as the Chandra Shekhar 
government is perceived worldwide as 
being socialistic, and against liber- 
alisation of foreign investment. 
Shekhar has openly come out against 
multinational companies, and so have 
most of his ministers. This perception 
could scare off money, ‘i don't think 
so," says Digvijay Singh, deputy 
minister for finance. He adds: “We 
don't want to do anything in the sense 
of left or right. The immediate task of 
the government is to improve the eco- 
nomiC'Situation of the country." But 
sans an open-minded investment 
policy — yet. 

This is where the US comes in. The 
IMF may be a consortium, but Uncle 
Sam practically dictates how much 
money goes where and on what terms. 
It is not surprising then, that the IMF 
has been pushing India to liberalise its 
economy and its investment policies as 


a condition for providing loans. And a 
possible outcome of negotiations with 
the IMF could be that the US and its 
corporate world receive better treat- 
ment in India. 

There has not been much of that 
happening, on the face of it. Over the 
last five years, three US companies 
have been in the limelight in India: 
Union Carbide Corp (UCC), thanks 
to the Bhopal gas tragedy. PepsiCo 
International, because many Indians 
believe they need food and money, 
not soft drinks. And L.I. du Pont de 
Nemours & Co, which proposes to 
make nylon fibre for tyres with the 
L.M. Thapar Group. 

The government is pushing to get 
more compensation from UCC, up 
from the US $475 million (Rs 855 
crores) agreed upon by the Supreme 
Court in 1989. The government could 
be looking at three times the earlier 
figure. Pepsi is in a spot of trouble, 
with a government perception that 
says it is not living up to its export 
commitments from India. “I've had 
both Pepsi and C'oke," jokes com- 
merce and law minister Subramaniam 
Swamy, “and I can’t tell the differ- 
ence." But when it comes to brass 
tacks, he is tough. “They must live up 
to it (export obligations)," he says, if 
they don’t. I’ll take action." This atti- 
tude had made Pepsi officials in India 
nervous, and the company has laun- 
ched a major PR exercise to ease gov- 
ernment pressure. Du Pont has waited 
for over four years for some indication 


of a go-ahead. Nothing has happened, 
and very few people will be surprised 
if the US conglomerate dumps its pro- 
ject. 

Then there is the General Agree- 
ment on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). 
This is a forum where the US and 
India have clashed constantly, and last 
month's talks in Brussels, Belgium, 
were no different. The conference col- 
lapsed, because various countries dis- 
agreed with proposals. But what was 
more crucial for India was that it could 
not agree with the US on a long-time 
demand: on accepting and enforcing 
patent laws in the Indian phar- 
maceuticals industry. Routinely, Indi- 
an manufacturers rip off drugs from 
US, slightly modify formulae and sell 
it, without paying a penny as royally. 
All this has got the US worked up. 
“India's complex and comprehensive 
web of market access barriers," says 
Collins, the US trade official, perhaps 
as jingoistically as Indians, “is a se- 
rious and longstanding impediment to 
US exports. ..India basically takes 
from other countries, but doesn't open 
itself up to its trading partners in a fair 
relationship." 

Dr Karan Singh, who was appointed 
India’s ambassador to the US in the 
last months of the Rajiv Gandhi gov- 
ernment, gave it all he had to smooth 
things out between the two countries. 
His successor, Abid Hussain, is doing 
exactly the same thing. By all 
accounts, Hussain is working overtime 
to convince the US government and 
trade officials that all is well with Indi- 
a’s intent. But diplomacv can only go 
so far. First, policy will have to 
change. 

I ndo-US business relations have not 
always been perceived in such poor 
light. The current criticisms reflect a 
downturn in the relationship that 
came to a head in summer 1989 when 
the I’S threatened to retaliate under 
its 301 trade laws against what it said 
were India's restrictive 4radc and in- 
vestment practices. Though a dis- 
astrous trade war with India’s largest 
trading partner (bilateral Indo-US 
trade was put at US $6 billion, or Rs 
10,800 crores, for 1989) has been 
averted for now, Indian policy-makers 
are likely to find that business conflicts 
with the US will come to a head in the 
next few months. 

The collapse of the Uruguay Round 
of GATT talks means that Washing- 
ton will soon take up a unilateral 
offensive against an erring trade part- 
ner. Already, faced with a severe 



Chandra Shekhar 


Whether the 
US likes it or not, 
it will simply have 
to get used to the 
way India thinks 
and works. If 
clearances are 
slow, too bad. If 
US companies are 
barred, too bad. 
If patent laws go 
haywire., too bad 


SUNDAY is-ie JanuMy 1991 


53 



BUSINESS 



US demands 


■ Let in US 
multinational 
companies freely. 

. ■ Increase equity 
participitation in new 
projects to over 40 per 
cent. 

■ Let more US exports 
in. 

■ Before asking for 
loans, get your 
economy in shape. 
Liberalise. 

■ Enforce patent laws 
in India to safeguard 
US products. 


■ Get off Pepsi, 
Union Carbide and 
Du Font’s back. 



India’s response 

■ No way. No 
multinationals get in 
with a free hand. 

■ Foreign equity stays 
at 40 per cent. If you 
don’t like it, go away. 


■ We’ll import what we 
want. 

■ We need loans, and 
we’ll ask for them. If 
you can’t provide we 
can go elsewhere. 

■ Patent laws are a 
good idea, but we’ll 
see about 
enforcement. 

■ This is India. Why 
don’t you get off our 
back. 


domestic recession, US trade relations 
with its important business partners 
have become incieasingiy hostile, 
both because of growing domestic pro- I 
tcctionism in the US, and its attempts 
to force developing countries to open 
their markets to US service industries. 
India is particularly vulneri*hle as both 
the rapidly industrialising South Hast 
Asian economies and the debt- 
burdened Latin American couniiics, 
unlike India, are keen to expand intei- 
national trade and have taken steps to 
liberalise their markets. 

A pity, say many US observers. In- 
dia’s failure to take advantage oi 
either foreign trade or investment has 
doomed the country to a far lower 
growth rate than could be achieved 
with more rational policies. (The rate 
of growth of the Indian economy has 
dropped to around three per cent, 

54 


from the early '8()s level of five per 
cent.) Unlike South Korea, tor exam- 
ple, says Harvard Business School 
professor Dennis Hncarnation. India, 
with its vast domestic market and 
opportunities for import-substitution, 
says Hncarnation, has had less com- 
pulsion to go in for export-led growth. 
Which is the key. And if India stepped 
up it' exports or opened up the eco- 
noiTiy, says the profes.sor, “it clearly 
would not undermine India’s defini- 
tion of sovereignty”. In other words, 
its socialist credo of self-icliance at all 
cost. 

Ironically, inspite of disputes, the 
US has since the 19S()s been amongst 
the largest inve.stors in India. (Current- 
ly, US investments account for US 
$500 million (Rs 900 crores) of the 
more than US $3 bilion (Rs 5,4(K) 


I crores) of private foreign investment 
in India, a fairly substantial figure. 
The UK, France, Germany and now, 

I Japan, arc other countries keen on 
India, but their interest has not dimi- 
nished the US’ clout much. Besides, 
India's massive consumer block, esti- 
mated at over 1(H) million is enough to 
make any potential investor drool. 

Ip turn, the US is a lucrative export 
market for India. Software is the key 
area, and here, India's exports have 
been rising. Garments, finished di- 
amonds, jewellery and leather goods 
are other areas where the US is an 
important buyer, and India cannot 
afford to let up. Hspecially when Indi- 
a's share in world exports is minus- 
cule. From a 1950 figure of two per 
cent of world exports, says T.N. Srini- 
vasan, a professor of economics al 
Yale University, it has now dropped 
to 0.5 per cent. Besides, says Sriniva- 
san, India’s major export items are 
vulnerable to changes in the interna- 
tional market. The fact that diamond 
exports have taken a beating in the US 
last year, thanks to slack demand, 
underscores this point. 

It IS a question of give and take. 
And here, there is a basic problem. 
The US thinks India takes too much 
and does not give enough in return. 
And India bristles at what it calls US 
pressure to open up the economy, a 
sort of blackmail in return for loans. 

But India is in a biggei spot than the 
US is, despite the larger country’s tril- 
lion dollar debt and balance of pay- 
ments problems. And India is unlikely 
to do better in the IIS nil it shapes up 
the qualitv of its exports and meets 
deadlines which Indian cxpoilers are 
notorious for missing. I'he net result, 
says Pradip Laroya, resident director 
of the Indian government’s Trade De- 
velopment Authority m New York, 
Indian exporters will be the first to be 
dumped by American buyers. “What 
happened to Indian manufacturing?” 
asks Laroya, rhetorically. “Nobody 
spoilt us. We spoilt ourselves and lost 
the bloody market.” 

Will India open up? Will it get 
friendlier with the US— apart from the 
recent thawing of relations over Pakis- 
tan Occupied Kashmir? And there- 
fore, open up a channel for much- 
needed money? Only Chandra 
Shekhar knows. And for India’s sake, 
one hopes he makes up his mind one 
way or the other. Fast. • 

Sudeep ChakravarWNew Delhi 
and ^Mhatih Dube/Waahington 
D.C. and New York 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 



BUSINESS 


COMPANIES 

Divide to multiply 

After years of discord, the Shriram cousins are looking ahead for the 

right equation 


E ight months after the formal 
splitting up of the Shriram in- 
dustrial house, the process ol 
consolidation and growth has begun. 
For the once-strife-torn family, divide- 
and-multiply appears to be an infinite- 
ly better alternative than to have 
stayed divided-and-dead. 

The mood is upbeat. Lala Bansi 
Dhar, Vinay Bharat Ram, Siddharth 
Shriram and cousin A jay, no longer 
bound by corporate fetters, arc trying 
to carve out their own kingdoms. 
Quickly. 

“We want to double our capacitN in 
our foundry in the near future," says 
VinayBliarat Ram, chairman of DC'M 
Group Ltd, a Rs 3S() crore breakaway 
of the former empiie. “DCM Data 
Products (a group company) is plan- 
ning to set up a factor) near the Delhi- 
Haryana border... we are planning to 
globalise our operations and a number 
of new products are in the pipeline." 
He adds: “We want to have a corpo- 
rate profile oriented in the direction of 
hi-tech engineering, telecommunica- 
tions, electronics and coiistriiction." 
The construction business is expected 
to take off after the group's prime real 
estate holding, the DCM complex at 
Bara Hindu Rao in Delhi, is cleared 
for use bv the Supreme Court. 

And while Bansi Dhar admits that 
he is “groping his way aivnind, looking 
for a viable solution ’ for the battered 
Hindon River Mills, it has not slopped 
the chairman and managing diieclor 
of the Rs 15f) crore umbrella com- 
pany, DC'M Shriram Industries Ltd, to 
look elsewhere foi ^uccess. A Rs 
crore nylon tyre cord factory for group 
company Shriram Rayons, for exam- 
ple. Modernise the profitable Daurala 
Sugar Works, and so on. 

Siddharth declines to comment on 
his plans, but from all accounts, has 
not declined to grow For starters, say- 
insiders, Siddharth plans to emerge as 
a top sugar baron. F'or this, he plans to 
pump in Rs 100 crores, to double the 
capacity of the profitable Mawana 
Sugar Works to 10, (XK) tonnes a year. 


And open a second plant Siddarlh is 
also the owner of the Rath brand 
vanaspali, which he now plans to push 
nationwide, widening its traditional 
North India base. Plus, open a distil- 
lery. And add on to his Rs 300 crore 
Shriram Industrial Enterprises Ltd. 

Ajay, the fourth cousin, was not 
part of the initial break-up equation**. 
Till his father — Bansi Dhar's 
brother— stepped in, demanding a 
share of the spoils. The Lala gave in, 
and now, Ajay runs a Rs 30() crore 
chunk under the DCM Shriram Con- 
solidated Ltd banner. “We are plan- 



A JAY SHRIRAM 

Managing director, DCM Shiram 
Consolidated Ltd 


Group turnover: Rs 300 crores 
(estimated) 

Major holdings: Swatantra 
Bharat Mills, DCM Silk Mills. 
Shriram Cement Works, Shriram 
Fertilisers and Chemicals 

The plan: Pump in Rs 1 00 crores 
over the next two years to update 
technology, expand capacities. 
One group that has talked about 
settina up power and plastics 
plants . Group turnover expected 
to rise by half. 


ning a capital investment of Rs 80-100 
crores in the next two to three years 
which," says Ajay, “would increase 
our turnover from today's level by 
approximately 40-.M) per cent.” 

On the suLface, the split was simple. 
“Siddharth chose profits and cash,” 
says a long-time DCM hand who de- 
clines to be identified. “Vinay chose 
future cash and technology and Bansi 
Dhar chose assets." A lot of which 
Ajay took away, but the Lala is not 
complaining any longer. Says Bansi 
Dhar: “We worked on the principle 
that those who managed and were 



LALA BANSI DHAR 

Chairman and managing director, 
DCM Shriram Industries Ltd 


Group turnover: Rs 1 50 crores 
(estimated) 

Major holdings: Daurala Sugar 
Works, Hindon River Mills, Shrir- 
am Rayons 

The plan: Try and figure out a 
way to sort out the limping Hin- 
don River Mills. Modernise the 
mill and make it efficient. Change 
Shriram Rayons’ product line, to 
include nylon tyre cords. Project 
cost. Rs 90 crores. Modernise 
Daurala Sugar. Instal energy- 
efficient machinery Project cost. 
Rs 2.5 crores. 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 


55 


MTIN RA< 




^$II4CSS 



SIDDHARTH SHRIRAM 

Managing director, Shriram Industrial 
Enterprises Ltd 


Group turnover: Rs 300 crores 
(estimated) 

Major holdings: Mawana Sugar 
Works, Shriram Foods and Che- 
micals, Shriram Refrigeration In- 
dustries, Shriram Honda, Jay En- 
gineering Works, Usha Sales In- 
ternational, India Hard Metals 

The plan: Double the Mawana 
Sugar Works to 1 0,000 tonnes a 
year. A new sugar plant. Turn 
'Rath' vanaspati, well-entrenched 
in North India, into a national 
brand. Buy or lease existing 
vanaspati plants. Cost; Rs 30 
crores. Perhaps a Rs 200 crore 
paper plant, and a distillery. In 
essence, however, become a 
sugar emperor. 


associated with the different units 
should not be disturbed. By and large, 
this formula worked out.” 

B ut it look a while coming. And 
not without heartburn, cither. 
The family was squabbling long beh)re 
eminent management consultant Mri- 
tunjay Athreya was brought in to 
nurse the ailing DCM conglomerate 
back to health in l%b. As a result of 
the in-fighling, the once dynamic 
house practically disintegrated. And 
lost its edge in terms of growth and 
market share in businesses it was good 
at: sugar, textiles, vanaspati, compu- 
ters, the list IS almost endless. 

In fact, Athreya has pointed out in 
1986 that a well-diversified house — a 
dt ri^eur survival principle m today's 
world — had. unfortunately, lost out 
on business opportunities. ‘“Nor was it 
(DCM),” wrote Athreva in his situa- 
tion report, “one of the models cited 
for innovation and excellence in tech- 
nology.” All at a crucial time; the 
early and mid-19S()s were the years 



Chairman, The DCM Group Ltd 


Group turnover: Rs 380 crores 
(estimated) 

Major holdings: DCM Ltd, DCM 
Data Products, DCM Toyota, 
DCM Foundry, SRF Ltd, Bara 
Hindu Rao Textile Mills. Hissar 
Spinning Mills 

The plan: Turn the Bara Hindu 
Rao acerage into profitable real 
estate. Likely income:Rs 300 
crores. Spruce up DCM Data 
Products and set up a factory in 
1 991 -92 financial year near De- 
Ihi-Haryana border. Rs 40 crores 
for DCM foundry capacity expan- 
sion. Rs 10 crores for Hissar 
Spinning Mills. Go into hi-tech, 
electronics, telecom and con- 
struction. 


when most other corporate lop- 
rungers made their big expansion and 
diversification moves. 

Athreya suggested that Bansi Dhar, 
Vinay and Siddharth come togethei as 
part of a reorganisation, tight financial 
control and planning. They did. But 
soon, differences on how this inte- 
grated organisation ought to be run. 
Then, in October 1987, Bansi Dhar 
suggested DCM be split up. After hec- 
tic discussions, the three cousins came 
together yet again, but true to ex- 
pectations, fell apart in months. 

Finally, in October 1988, the ques- 
tion of how to trifurcate DCM was 
resolved. The cousins signed the 
agreement, which was accepted in 
principle by the government. But they 
had gone to court over their claims, 
and it took till April last year before 
the Delhi High Court gave a decision 
endorsing the split. “1 don't think it 
could have been done earlier,” says 
A jay Shriram. “Regarding the timing 
of the whole exercise, it would not 
have been possible until the will to do 


it successfully is there in all persons 
concerned.” He adds: “Ciiven the 
complexities of the situation the exei- 
cise was executed within a reasonable 
time-frame.” 

Complex is right. For almost lour 
years, business columns of newspapers 
and magazines devoted endless space 
to speculate which way the Shriram 
house was headed. (Except perhaps 
when the Modi family went the same 
way. But that is a different, though 
similar, story.) 

Watching over the division were 
two people — both family friends — 
whom the warring factions trusted: 
S.S. Baijal, ex-chairman of ILC L.td 
(formerly ICl), and Mantosh Sondhi, 
former industries secretary to the 
Government of India. Baqal and Son- 
dhi were brought into a special man- 
agement committee, along with two 
nominees of financial institutions, 
basically a fire-fighting team. 

Now, Baijal believes that distr.bu- 
tion of business was “equitable and 
fair given the complexities of the 
issues involved,” echoing Ajay’s re- 
mark. Sondhi, for his part, says that 
the family referred to the duo whenev- 
er a dispute arose - and there were 
plenty of them- -and trusted them 
completely as far as arbitration went 
“They gave us absolute freedom, " 
says Sondhi, “and did not question our 
decision.” 

Since April last year, the four en- 
tities of the erstwhile DCM Ciroup 
have been registered, each with an 
equity capital of Rs S.TS crores. (A 
clean four-way split of the mother 
company’s Rs 23 crore capital ) And 
from November, the truncated DCM 
companies were listed on the Delhi. 
Stock Exchange. 

But things are not all clear yet. Vox 
example, the division of Madan 
Mohan Shriram Pvt. Ltd, the family 
trust, that holds eight per cent of 
DCM’s shares. This may lead to a 
squabble but perhaps, wizened by the 
events of the last decade, the family 
will choose a peaceful way out. What- 
ever the case, the friends are keeping 
off. Says Baijal: “How they want to do 
that (split the trust's holdings) is for 
the family members to decide. " 

They will. And, going by the indica- 
tions, will try and recoup lost glorv - if 
they could not break into big time 
together, they are now free to go it 
singly. Of course, what the cousins 
make of this split legacy is something 
corporate watchers will be looking at 
very closely.® 

Deblani SInha/New Delhi 


56 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 






■ Only merit 

T 'here is great dismay at 
Tatas over the attitude 
of Subramaniam Swamy, 
the irrepressible commerce 
minister. 

1'wo weeks ago, Darbari 
Seth, the canny, pragmatic 
chief of Tata Chemicals 
went to see Swamy to ask 
him to help out with an 
aluminium project in 
Venezuela. 1’he I’atas are 
bidding for the project and 
were told by the 




I 


A 


Sethfhelp! 

Venezuelans that a 
recornincndatKni from 
Swamy would help 

Swamv made it clear that 
he would not interlere it 
thev got the piojeet on 
merit. lint, he said, he had 
heard several unsavoury 
stories about Seth s 
companies and their 
business practices. Only 
when he was sure that Seth 
w as a fit and proper person 
to represent India's 
interests abroad would he 
go out of his way help 
clinch the project. 

According to I ata 
sources. SelTi w as outraged 
and believes that any 
commerce minister should 
assist an Indian company 
which is trying to compete 
internationally. But ihe 
Tatas are still optimistic 
and believe that Swamy will 
come around. 


■ Uh, oh 

T he government's moves 
to tap non-resident 
Indian (NRI) funds — the 
loot is estimated at US $ 


SUNDAY n J.iiiudry 1941 



I don’t know why 
Mople call me a 
Brezhnevite. 1 believe in 
using capitalist tools 
effectively for achieving 
socialist ends.” 


Former jinance secretary, and 
currently, chief economic adviser 
to the Planning Commission, 
Bimal Jalan 




m 



Swamy: come again? 

five billion (Rsy,0()() 
ciores) ^ may run into 
some rough weather. 

No! becau.se the 
government is not rnakine 
the right noises. Alter all, it 
is saying that NRIs are 
preferable to multinational 
mayhem , and is thinking of 
culimg red tape. The 
government is al.so 


considering a plan to offer 
NRIs dual citizenship in 
exchange for bringing in 
hard currency into India. 

But because there are 
enough NRIs who have 
made their pilgrimage back 
home and got burnt — in 
their professional lives and 
with investments. Usually, 
for not kow towing to 
government and for taking 
on the solidly entrenched 
domestic business lobby. 
Now. these NRIs — some 
very big names too — are 
going around saying what a 
bad place India is to invest 
in. And warning important 
NRIs oft. ('onsidenng an 
NRI is more likelv to 
believe a fellow NRI than 
the Indian government, the 
Chandra Shekhar 
administration's plans may 
go haywire. 


POLITICIAN OF THE WEEK 


Finance minister Yashwant Sinha 

I ® He said he would do something, and he 

^ Parliament last week, Sinha tabled 

® ^ liH. documents showing up the prev ious 

. regime's excise refunds to priv ate business 

k refunds, or unjust enrichment', as 

, Sinha's predecessor iViadhu Dandav ate 

lKI called it, is being bihed by the current legime 

as a scandal. The inference is that more monev was 
perhaps refunded than was due, especially at a time when 
government is reeling from a mass' ve revenue shortfall. 

Foi example, Rs .^^^22 crores of excise and customs dues 
were lefunded last April when tht total revenue collection 
was Rs 28.53 croies. And so on, down to July-September, 
a hefty Rs .^00 crore worth. Fhere is certain to be a furore 
in Parliament on his count, and who knows, even an 
enquiry? Dandavate and his boss, Mr Clean, could be in 
for a rough winter. 


■Austerity, 

ouch! 

I f the government's plans 
to get austere really gets 
austere, it may well drag 
the private sector along. 

There is a proposal doing 
the rounds in the Union 
finance ministry which says 
that the private sector has it 
far too easy with tax 
breaks. And because of 
these concessions, the 
government picks up less 
money as tax dues. 

So, g('es the idea, ask 
companies to cut back on 
executive perquisites. What 
IS the neetl to educate an 
executive's children at 
company expense? Or why 
send them abioad on 
holidays, and pick up the 
tab? ()i , w hy have lav ish 
expense accounts ’ 

I'heie is a school ol 
government policy -makers 
which contends that these 
are unnecessarv frills and 



Shekhar: Mr Austere 

should he scrapped The 
move would serve as an 
example at a time when 
India IS going thiough its 
worst economic ciisis evei . 
a helt-tightenmg elloiT It 
would also serve to bring 
more money into pkiv lor 
the government to pick up 
as taxes. Only , it this 
proposal comes through 
priv ate companies w ill 
throw a collective tii ( )i 
simply liiul other wavs to 
prov itle [VI ks and lediu e 
tax payments • 







Swamy wags again 


The law minister shoots his mouth ojf and triggers a 
parliamentary furore 


Parliamentary pro- 
ceedings in the recent 
past have hardly in- 
spired much confi- 
dence but they sunk 
to a new low in the 
first week of this 
DELHI month. BJP parlia- 
mmmmmmammmmmB mcntarian Jaswailt 
Singh described them as causing “in- 
stitutional damage” to parliamentary 
democracy, and other MPs thundered 


ot revelling m them While the law- 
minister made it out to be a harmless 
joke between Iriends, parliamenta- 
rians seriously questioned whether 
Swamy was fit tor his post when he 
had so blatantly violated parliamen- 
tary decorum. 

It all started with a repiirt in Tlic 
Ifimlustan Times, aliiKisi a week after 
the incident actuall\ happened. On 2 
.lanuarv, the newspaper reported that 
Swamy had walked into the Speaker’s 


on its feet, seeking an explanation. 
Members of the Janata Dal, CPl(M), 
CPI and the BJP vociferously deman- 
ded the minister’s resignation with 
shouts ol ko giraftaar karo, 

Sudan ka kudu saaf karo! (arrest 
Swamy, cleanse the house of its gar- 
bage’) ” Repeated appeals by the 
Speaker not to press the issue any 
turther were ot no avail, as senior 
leaders such as Professor Madhu 
Dandavate and L.K. Advani voiced 




Rabi Ray: has the last laugh; and Subramaniam Swamy: the enfant terrible eats humble pie 


in the House that the sanctity ot the 
Speaker's chair had been grosslv 
violated by the man who held the 
office of the minister ol \iw and 
justice. 

For two days (2-3 Januaiy) impor- 
tant issues like Pun)ab. Assam ano 
inflation were ignored, while the 
House witnes.sed uproarious scenes 
over what Subramaniam Swamy, 
minister of law, had told Speaker Rabi 
Ray. 

7'hose who know Swamy's penchant 
for controversy, were hardly surprised 
when he put his foot in his mouth, so 
soon after assuming office at the 
Centre. This time, however, the enfant 
terrible of Indian politics had to apolo- 
gise for his verbal indiscretions instead 


ciiamber on 27 December and, in the 
presence of several tither MPs, 
threatened to arrest the Speaker when 
he letused to give further lime to the 
^7 lanat.1 Dal(S) MPs to respond to 
I he I'otice seeking their disqualifica- 
tion antlcT the Anti-defection Act. 
Wlien Swamy asked the Speaker to 
indefinitely postptme the last day for 
the submission by the MPs and Ray 
re 1 used to oblige, the law minister was 
reported to have said, “It you cannot 
do so, it will be contempt of court. In 
that Cvisc, we will have to get you 
ariesled.” 

As the I louse assembled on 2 Janu- 
ary, after a break of four days, the 
entire Opposition, with the exception 
of the Congress(l) and its allies, was 


then concern about the erosion of 
parliamentary norms. 

While irate members alleged that 
Swamy had links with the C'lA and 
demanded his expulsion from the 
council of ministers. Prime Minister 
C handra Shekhar and the parliamen- 
tary affairs minister Satya Prakash 
Malviya invited leaders of the diffe- 
rent parties to a discussion on how to 
resolve the crisis. I'he Prime Minister 
explained that he had spoken to the 
Speaker and had been assured by him 
that there was nothing serious about 
Swamy’s alleged threat. However, 
Chandra Shekhar apologised to the 
Speaker on the basis of the rumours 
circulating in the House which, he 
admitted, did undermine the sanctity 


58 


SUNDAY 1S-ig January 1991 




Children of a lesser court 


The bureaucracy flouLs judicial orders on the release 
of juvenile undertrials 


of the institution. The matter may 
have ended there, were it not for 
Malviya’s contention that there was no 
truth in the newspaper report. 

This only incensed the members 
further who argued that the F^rime 
Minister would not have apologised 
had the report been a concoction. 
They intensified their demand for a 
privilege motion and said that cither 
Swamy or the newspaper be taken to 
task. While Swamy maintained an 
uncanny silence, members like 
Samarendra Kundu and Madan l.al 
Khurana challenged him to denv the 
allegations. 

In the highly surchaiged atmos- 
phere, it was virtually impossible to 
transact any business on two ol the 
three days the House met While the 
proceedings were stalled for almost 
two hours on the first day, no business 
was transacted tm ^ January, when the 
liouse was adjourned thrice to restore 
order The dilemma ot the Congres- 
s(I) was tibvious, as its noimally vola- 
tile MFN quietly watched the drama. 
When Kamal Nath and F* K Kurnar- 
amangalam leeblv suggested that the 
House go on with the business ol the 
dav, they ^^e^e accused til trvmg to 
shield the minister However, m the 
Rajva Sabha, ( ongress MI’ A (i Kul- 
karni went to the extent of saying that 
SwaniN was a “mental patient", arui 
demanded his dismissal 

Following a dinnei meeting hosted 
by the I’rime Minister late on 3 Janu- 
ary. which was attended by Rajiv 
Gandhi and other leaders, it was de- 
cided that Swam> would tender an 
unqualified apologv in the House on 
the following day It came as an 
anti-ciimax after all the tiiiore. “I hold 
the office of the Speaker and Mr Rabi 
Ray personallx m the highest esteem. 
The Speaker represents the digmtv of 
the House and the nation. In the light 
of what had happened in the Speaker's 
chamber and the things that had come 
to pass, 1 request the Speaker and 
the entire House to accept rnv unquali- 
f'ed apology and close the matter 
honourably, ' said Swamv humbl\ 
on 4 January. 

I hough the dignity of the Speaker’s 
chair was thus ujiheld and Swamy 
suitably chastised, the disqualificatum 
issue that had sparketl oft the con- 
troversy seemed to ha\e been put im 
the backburner. But Swamy's indis- 
cretion showed how desperate the 
treasury benches were to ensure that 
the 37 Janata Dal(S) were not disqual- 
ified. • 

Shim Sidhva/New Delhi 


Lveryday the glim- 
mer of hope recedes 
for the juvenile 
underlnals cooped 
up in the abominable 
jails and remand 
homes of Bihar. Ab- 
out 1,477 accused 
children are being 
held in custody — about half of them 
for well over three years — with the 
trials nowhere in sight 

There was cause for cheer about a 
year and a half back, when a division 
bench of the Patna High Court deli- 


vered a historic judgement, quashing 
all cases pending for three years or 
more. The undertrial juxcniles were 
acquitted and were to be sit free. And 
then the bureaucracy got into the act, 
well, of not acting. It refused to stir 
The judicial ball was set rolling on 
27 March, IWC when a full bench ot 
the High C ourt ruled ir the Kiishna 
Bhagwan case that no juvenile ac- 
cused could be jienahwd for more 
than three years. The verdict inspired 
a public- interest petiPon by a social 
worker, Sanai Kumi.r Sinha, who 
drew I he court’s attention to the fact 
that hundreds of interned children 
were being held without trial for over 
three years in various jails in the state. 

The court was moved. I hree days 


later it asked all district judges to sub- 
mit lists of pending ca.ses and to dis- 
pose of them within three months. 
Yet, nothing happened. And, Sinha 
was back in the court, complaining 
that the ruling had been ignored. 

A two-member bench comprising 
Justices S.S. Hasan and S.H.S.Abidi 
went into the matter and gave its rul- 
ing on S September, 1989. The judges 
observed; “In India, delay in criminal 
trials has by itself assumed the charac- 
ter of punishment with all concerned.” 
They added that the cases reveal a“ hor- 
rendous and utterly shocking state of 


affairs... Investigations are pending, 
trials going on for upto five years, in 
large cases juveniles are in prisons...” 
The ctmrt therefore acted in a “drastic 
manner’', directing all cases hanging 
fire tiM three or more years to be 
quashed and the children released. 

Lxactly a year later, the public in- 
terest petitioner was back, stridently 
telling the High Court that its orders 
had been violated 

On 3 December, Justice Abidi and 
Justice R.N.Lal directed that all juve- | 
nile cases be considered individually I 
“within a month " and disposed of in 
accordance with the earlier rulings. 
Now, the matter will come u|> beii^re 
the High Court again on lb January. 
Subodh Mishra/Patna 



BIHAR 


The districts are (ull of cases pending for over three years 



Bhojpur 

Vaishali 

Sitamarhi 

Patna 

Hazaribagh 

Monger 

East Champaran 

Muzaffarpur 

Samastipur 

Nalanda 

Gaya 

Bhagalpur 

Giridih 

Palamau 

Pumea 

Jehanabad 

Katihar 

Madbubani 

Aurangabad 

Darbhanga 

Siwan 

Madhepura ' 


SUNDAY IB January 1991 


59 





NEWS 


What? No! 


Amendments on hold 


The state denies the 
existence of ULFA camps 



TAMIL NADU 


Amidst strong spe- 
culation that chief 
minister Kariinanidhi 
was tacing the guillo- 
tine toi his alleged 
support to the L/ITF, 
came yet another 
shockei This time 
the DMK supremo 
was charged with haibourmg training 
camps ol another militant organisa- 
tion: the ULhA of far-away Assam, 
'rherc w'cic at least six camps of the 
United Liberation F'liMit of Assam 
(UITA) m the state, declared a Delhi 
report in I he Telegraph of 3 January, 
till they were raided by the police on 
explicit instructions from Delhi. 

"A big lie!" snapped R. Nagarajan, 


the state home secretary. “Why don’t 
they tell us where these ‘camps' were 
unearthed?" The Tamil Nadu police 
had helped its As.sam counterpart m 
apprehending three ULFA suspects 
undergoing treatment in the Christian 
Medical (’ollege, Vellore. That was in 
mid-December. And that was all. 


Fver since the National Front gov- 
ernment fell at the Centre, M. Karu- 
nanidhi has found the going tough. 
And law minister Subramaniam 
Swamy seems to have taken a personal 
interest m intensifying the DMK lead- 
er’s unhappiness The relations be- 
tween the tw() were never too good. 
Besides, in a recent visit to Tamil 
Nadu, Swamy reportedly told his 
friends that he would ‘expose’ an un- 
holy nexus betwen Kariinanidhi, the 
LTTF and the ULTA. 


“But why shv>uld the Ul.FA come 
all the way down to Tamil Nadu for 
arms training?" asks a Madras police 
official. “Fhe Assamese militants 
could easily get all the help they want 
from the Chinese, just a stone's throw 
from the border." According to the 
police officer, the three ULFA men 
had come to Vellore foi treatment, 
like “so many civilians from the 
North-east" But with all these 
allegations converging on him, chief 
minister Kariinanidhi has a tough time 
ahead. • 

R, Bhagwan Singh/ Madras 


Bangarappa fails to curb panchayat power 


For the past one 
month, the people of 
’'I'elw'al were on ten- 
terhooks. Usually, 
they do not look back 
on the bad old days. 
If a n y t li i n g , t h e y 
KARNATAKA think of only the last 
fcW years whicll have 
seen an improvement in the living con- 
ditions of the impoverished li<t. Hav- 
ing suffered total apathy at the hands 
of various governments in the state, 
the Yelwal manclal panchayat had 
finally decided to do for themselves 
what the people elected to the Vidha- 
na Soudha had not. 

This process of development had 
been triggered off by the implementa- 
tion of the Zilla Parishad Act of F>S3. 
Wielding the powers given to them bv 
the Act, the Janata Dal-led panchayat 
first levied taxes on big industries in 
their area, like Vikrant lyres. The 


money accrued was utilised for wel- 
fare work. And over the years, the 
area bordering Mysoie, in Karnataka, 
saw tremendous development. Today, 
not only do all the villages in the man- 
cial have electricity, their water prob- 
lems too have been solved. 

But recently, the people* of Yelwal 
were upset. They feared that the 
amendments propi^sed to be intro- 
duced to the Zilla Parishad Act by S. 
Bangarappa's government would take 
away their rights to decide what was 
good for them. And the Yelwal pan- 
chayat was not alone, there were eiver 
3,000 other pane hayats — covering 
nearly 2b,000 villages in Karnataka — 
dreading the same fate. 

However, the worrieil village folk 
heaved a sigh of relief in the last week 
of the year when the state government 
decided to postpone the controversial 
amendments The decision taken 
according to the diktat of the C'ongress 



New Year’s 
bloocibath 


Suspected Naxalites gun 
down nine of a family in 
Bihar 

W hat a way to begin the New 
Year, The time: 3.30 pm. 
The place: Keshari village, under 
Chand police station, in Rohtas 
district of Bihar. About 30 armed 
men surrounded the house of 
Baidyanath Singh, an affluent far- 
mer, as a prelude to an orches- 
trated violence Then, there was 
gunfire, shrieks md the wails of 
terrified women, i. the end, nine — 
all belonging to Ba dvanath Singh's 
family— lay dead. Among them 
were four women am' a child. 

liven two days later, on 3 Jani^n 
ary, chief minister Laloo Prasad ' 
Yadav had no knowledge of the 
mayhem. Till the Patna dailies re- 
ported it that day. He, along with 



The mourners in Keshari: tears and fears 


his five Cabinet colleagues, rushed 
to Keshari which had witnessed a 
carnage for the first time. He knew 
he would be of little help in nab- 
bing the killers, but could at least 
sympathise with the victims. 


60 


SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 




Mindless on 
Mandal 



Bangarappa and Baaavalingappa: aborted efforts 


high command — left Bangarappa's 
government quite red in the face. 

And Bangarappa had enough 
reason to be embarrassed. 

Authored by the irrepressible B. 
Basavalingappa, minister for Pan- 
chayati Raj, the main aims of the 
amendments were: reducing the terms 
of the zilla parishads and panchayats 
from five to four years, giving sup- 
remacy to the bureaucracy over the 


According to official sources* the 
police registered FlRs against 16 
unspecified persons. A relative of 
one of the victims explained that 
Baidyanath's family incurred the 
wrath of the Naxalites for identify- 
ing the dreaded Nakru Chamar, a 
member of their group, who was 
later gunned down in an 'encoun- 
ter’ last November. Since then, 
Chamar’s accomplices had been 
threatening Baidyanath Singh with 
dire consequences. 

The attackers took away two 
licensed guns, cash and ornaments. 
The district administration rejected 
the view that the Naxalites were 
involved, but the villagers were 
convinced that the carnage was 
part of the extremist vendetta. 

For his part, Laloo Prasad tried 
to sound righteous. He promised 
that a high-powered committee will 
Ihquire into the incident and 
warned that the district officials 
should either arrest the culprits or 
face disciplinary action. 

Meanwhile, an ominous silence 
pervades Kesti^i— -which is prob- 
ably su sullen interlude before 
another retaliatory outburst, • 


elected local bodies and reserving 50 
per cent of the seats in the local bodies 
for other backward classes (OBCs). 

Written in drab officialese, each of 
the pioposed amendments had a poli- 
tical motive behind it. The first was 
personally desired by Bangarappa as 
he did not want these local bodies 
functioning in the event of a mid-term 
poll. If the proposal had got through, 
the terms of the 19 zilla parishads— 
eleven of which are controlled by the 
Janata Dal — would have come to an 
end in January or February. With the 
Opposition-ruled local bodies out of 
the way, Bangarappa had expected 
the Congress to fare belter at the 
ballot. 

The second amendment would have 
gone straight for the jugular of the 
decentralisation process. It provided 
for the deputy commissioners to dis- 
miss local bodies or over-rule their 
decisions. In effect, it was putting the 
reins of the local bodies in the hands 
of the bureaucracy, which, in turn, 
was answerable to the minister. It ne- 
gated the core purpose of the Ziila 
Parishad Act. 

And the third major amendment 
irked the majority communities. With 
already 18 per cent kept aside for the 
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled 
Tribes in the local bodies, the addi- 
tional reservation would keep, in all 68 
per cent of the seats aside for the 
backwards. And the dominant Ling- 
ayat and Vokkaliga communities were 
not willing to let go of their hold on 
the local hoodies. 

Now, with most of the amendments 
diluted, the future of Basavalingap- 
pa’s plans to drastically tamper with 
decentralisation are bleak. • 

Gauri Lankeah/Bangalore 


The PUDR criticises the 
role of the media 

The civil rights 
groups do not, in 
general , seem 
pleased with the re- 
cent past. The 
Amnesty Interna- 
tional was quite vocal 
on certain violations 
of civil rights, a little 
while ago; and now the People's Un- 
ion for Democratic Rights (PUDR) 
has come up with an extensive report 
centering around the Mandal Com- 
mission Report and its after-effects. 

The Mandal C'ornmission fall-out 
was one of the most important events 
of the year. The widespread students' 
movement paralysed cities and trig- 
gered oft bizarre protests, including 
hundreds of people attempting self- 
immolation. And now, with the move- 
ment at an ebb, the PUDR has 
attempted to put the issue in perspec- 
tive in its investigative report: “Dis- 
puted Passages: A Report on Law, 
Re.se rvalions and Agitations". 

Assessing the agitation, in which 
202 attempted suicide and 12 died, the 
PUDR laid part of the blame on the 
media. “Indisputably," it staled, “the 
high-profile media coverage, including 
some particularly insensitive visuals, 
played a catalytic role in provoking 
more and moie people to attempt 
suicide in protest against the reserva- 
tions." The report also quoted the 
Sanjivini Society for Mental Health 
which conducted case studies and 
came to the conclusion that the sensa- 
tional media coverage given to the 
self-immolations were, in a large way, 
responsible for the deaths. 

And both the electronic media, as 
well as the print media, played 
“nauseating roles", according to the 
PUDR report. I n the former, the 

widespread agitation was almost com- 
pletely ignored. And in the latter, 
sensational reporting of the agitation 
was given wide coverage “to the exclu- 
sion of the obligations towards other 
issues". 

The report goes on to accuse the 
print media of “suppressing crucial 



DELHI 


SUNDAY 13— 10 January 1091 


61 






NEWS 


Busting Bhagat 


Delhi Congressmen hit out against the AICC(I) 
general secretary 


facts and highlighting some events 
beyond proportion” and of “the bla- 
tantly casteist abuse that poured out 
from the staffers” and draws attention 
to the handy “intellectuals on hire”. 

Worse, the media paid no attention 
to the casteist violence which broke 
out all over the country, including 
Begusarai, Madhepur, Shaisa, Ballia, 
Meerut and Amristar. Citing an inst 
ance, a PUDR spokesperson said that 
six students on fast against reserva- 
tions w'ere killed by “unidentified ter- 
rorists”. 

While lashing out at the media for 
its role in the agitation, the PUDR has 
not spared the bureaucracy, which has 
maintained a rather low profile. Con- 
trary to popular opinion, it was not the 
Commission but the bureaucracy 
which had drawn up the backward 
classes list. Commenting on the im- 
portance of the census in the con- 
troversy, the report says that it can be 
used tor the “identification of castes, 
for an understanding of mobility 
among and across castes and, lastly, 
for estimating the proportion of iden- 
tified backward castes in the total 
population.” And, contrary to the 
widespread belief that the last caste- 
based census was conducted in 1^),'^!, 
the report reveals that the last was in 
1951 but the “government chose not to 
process and publish the data”. (The 
Mandal Commission refers only to the 
1931 census). 

Analysing the role of the courts in 
resolving reservation disputes the re- 
port has quoted Justice Chinnappa 
Reddy expressing the court's 
helplessness in dealing with the issues 
specifically. “We are afraid the courts 
are not necessarily the most compe- 
tent to identify the backward castes or 
to lay down the guidelines for their 
identification except in a broad and 
general way,” Reddy says. “We are 
not equipped for that; we have no 
legal barometers to measure social 
backwardness.” And the PUDR adds: 
“Over the last decade, (courts) have 
very nearly come to play a social and 
political function which they are not 
meant for.” 

And in its conclusion, the report 
quotes former Prime Minister, V.P. 
Singh: “Deep social frustrations can 
convert themselves into a revolt 
against the political system itself. The 
symptoms must be seen and attended 
to in time.” The PUDR has pointed 
out the symptoms — whether they are 
attended to or not remains to be seen. 

MlnuMn/ New Delhi 


For 20 years, the 
stubby, bespectacled 
T-lL H.K.L. Bhagat has 

> been a familiar figure 

in Delhi, towering 
I over the city's politic- 

r T al scene But now, 

CONGRESSd) colossus seems to 
bc slipping, his influ- 
ence being steadily eroded by those in 
the Congress(I) itself. 

In what appears to be the first salvo 
of its kind, discontented Congressmen 
have got together to openly criticise 
the functioning of the Delhi Pradesh 
Congress Committee (DPCC) and 
Bhagat's destabilising influence. They 
call themselves the “crusaders of Con- 
gress” and resent being termed “dissi- 
dents”. Instead, they claim to be a 
“loyalist group” and include high pro- 
file politicians such as two Delhi MPs, 
Jagdish Tytler and J.P. Aggarwal, for- 
mer DPCC' president Tajbar Babar 
and Metropolitan Council chairperson 
Purushottam Goel. And their one- 
point programme is to oust Bhagat 
from Delhi politics and thus “ensure 
that the programmes of the Congress 
party and Rajiv Gandhi arc im- 

H.K.L.Bhagat: the godfather 


plemented properly”. 

“We want to combat the Don cul- 
ture in Delhi politics,” says Tytler. 
“Bhagat is like a malevolent godfather 
and Delhi is his fiefdom.” Adds an 
enthusiastic Goel, “We shall shake the 
Delhi Congress out of its stupor.” 

The long list of grievances range 
from the Pradesh Congress not taking 
an active interest in Indira Gandhi’s 
birthday celebrations, to charges of 
outright corruption and collusion with 
communal forces. 

The Delhi Pradesh Congress Com- 
mittee did not take any ac- 
tion when communal riots hit the city, 
the rebels point out. They did not 
issue a single statement against the 
BJP. “There was trouble in my area,” 
says Aggarwal, MP from Chandni 
Chowk, “but 1 did not get any help 
from the city Congress.” In fact, the 
rebels allege, Bhagat had gifted a car 
to BJP MP Madanlal Khurana's 
daughter. 

Then there are charges of terroris- 
ing any party member who dares to 
oppose the might of Bhagat. “He has 
created an atmosphere of fear within 
the party,” states Cn>el. “He has been 



62 


SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 






NEWS 



Right follows left 


The BJP takes lessons from the CPI(M) 


Tytler; no mafia manners, please 

calling up Metropolitan C\iijncil mem- 
bers m the middle of the night to 
threaten them with dismissal if they 
dare to join hands with us.” 

Now the rebels have listed 1 1 ques- 
tions to Bhagat. detailing all the 
allegations, and have been distiibutmg 
the list. They also organised a uul- 
hhcivna yatra in the capital- -ostensibly 
to promote communal harmony, 
actually intended to be a show' of 
strength. 

Faced with such growing resent- 
ment, the DPC’C high command 
quite impassive. ‘It is very simple,” 
explains former chief executive coun- 
cillor Jag Pravesh ( handra, ‘in poli- 
tics the fight IS always tor the chan. 
And before that, tor tickets. That is 
just what is happening.” And DPC'C 
president Prem Singh accused ot 
neing nothing more than a rubber 
stamp tor Bhagat, agrees “Fhe 
Pradesh Congress has been doing 
more work than it ever has," he 
claims. “These people have got 
together now only because they want 
tickets. They want to become Laders 
through the press." 

The star of the show, Bhagat him- 
self, simply dismisses the charges as 
being of “no consequence at all". 
However, the DPCC can do little ab- 
out the mounting dissidence — except 
for sending show-cause notices. Some 
of the rebels have got these already. 
But that hardly makes a difference to 
them. “There is no going hack now," 
says Aggarwal. “We have been suffo- 
cated for years, and now is the time 
for action. Sundry show-cause notices 
just don’t matter." 

The numero uno in Delhi politics is 
clearly in trouble. • 

MInu Mn/New Delhi 

SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 



Sunderlal Patwa 
learnt a lesson in Cal- 
cutta some months 
back. And on 23 
January he is going to 
put his learning to 
MADHYA >est. When the 
PRADESH Madhya Pradesh 
mmmmmmmimmmm chief minister HlCt lllS 
West Bengal counterpart, Jyoti Basu, 
a Marxist of many seasons, he en- 
quired about the secret behind the 
leftists’ success in Bengal. The Marx- 
ists have retained power for 13 years 
and, barring occasional pinpricks by 
the Congress(I), the state s main 
Opposition party, the CPl(M)-lcd left 
coalition has faced no serious chal- 
lenge. Patwa, who assumed office last 
March, wanted a tip on enjoying 
permanent power. And Basu recom- 
mended the grassroots. 

It IS a political potion the CPI(M) 
still relies on. The party believes in 
keeping every village under its grip 
And the mechanism with w hich it docs 
this is the panchayat which can, theore- 
tically, monitor every household. 
Soon after coming to power in 1977, 
the Marxists revived the moribund 
panchavats by making them the real 
power centres in rural Bengal and put- 
ting them up for grabs by political 
parties. Since the first such election in 
197S, the CPI(M) and its allies have 
enjoved an overwhelming majoirty in 
the rural bodies. So Patwa has taken 
a leaf out of the communist Red Book 
and is all set to apply the CPI(M)'s 
formula in Madhya Pradesh. 

The BJP is going to contest the pan- 
chayat elections directly on a party 
basis and has fielded over a lakh 
candidates for all seats of panchas, 
sarpanchs and heads of blocK and dis- 
trict panchas. Initially, it was opposed 
to direct party involvement in the ru- 
ral polls, but changed its mind subse- 
quently. This shift in policy has pui. 
other parties such as the Congress(l), 
Janata Dal and the Janata Dal(S) in 
complete disarray. At the moment, 
none of them i^ organisationally ready 
for the kind of intensive electioneering 
that is needed to fetch dividends in 
panchayat polls. 

Originally, the elections had been 
planned in September but were post- 


poned because of the communal ten- 
sion in the state and elsewhere in the 
country. Last month, the government 
decided to schedule them on 23 Janu- 
ary in view of a Government of India 
directive disfavouring elections in 
February and March when most state 
employees would be needed for cen- 
sus work. 

Former chief ministers Motilal Vora 
and Shyama (’haran Shukla of the 
Congress(I) opposed the govern- 



Sundeiial Patwa: the pupil 

ment's decision in the last Assembly 
session and boycotted the proceed- 
ings. The other parties did not official- 
ly assail the government's move, but 
are not sure of their chances. Chief 
mnistei Patwa has, however, consis- 
tently defended his position. Refer- 
ring 10 the Congress! I ) complaint that 
there was little time left to make pre- 
parations, Patwa told Sl ndas that all 
parties, including the BJP, faced the 
same problem. 

In a way the chief minister is right. 
Time indeed is in nobody’s favour. 
But there is a possibility that the gov- 
ernment machinery might just tilt tor 
the BJP. And that is w hat the Opposi- 
tion fears most. • 

M. V, Kher/Ralpur J 


.'j > * 





MANI-TALK 


MANI SHANKAR AIYAR 


Sam weds Gorby 

As the two superpowers unite on Iraq, non-alignment becomes 

even more important 



Lead, kindly light. 
Provided al^\ays 
that, between 
them, George 
Bush and Saddam 
Hussein have not 
succeeded in 
blowing us all into 
smithereens by 
the time this col- 
u m n is p u b- 
lished — and there is some hope on 
that score because the US Administra- 
tion has announced that the End of 
Life on this Planet as We Know It is 
not to be on January 15, 1991 but on 
any date thereafter decreed for the 
purpose by the United States and its 
Yes-States — our new Prime Minister 
and his foreign minister will, one 
trusts, begin reflecting on what is to be 
the direction of Indian foreign policy 
now that V.P. Singh has been re- 
turned to the pavilion and Gujrafs 
gone off to lunch. The need for this 
becomes all the more acute because, 
after a gap of six years, India resumed 
its seat on the Security Council on 
New Year’s Day 1992 (and, no, there 
is no truth to the rumour that the 
international community has thus hon- 
oured us as the world’s grateful re- 
ward to the people of India for having 
rid us all of Don Quixote Singh and 
Inder Kumar Panza!). 

The new government could worse 
than consult G.H. Jansen, The Times 
of India's correspondent in West Asia. 
Jansen began his career in the Indian 
Foreign Service (the point at which, in 
all modesty, I recommend that all 
journalists begin their careers so that 
they acquire some experience .4 doing 
something instead of merely bloating 
over their armchairs commenting on 
the doings of others!). He then res- 
igned in mid-career from the IFS (the 
point at which, in all modesty. I re- 
commend that all diplomats end their 
careers so that their palms do not peel 
before the grease on the pole they are 
climbing is pre-empted by others!). 
He settled down in Beirut — which be- 
fore the Mandalisation of Lebanon, 


was the delightful sca-side capital 
where hacks confabulated with spies 
and spies passed themselves off as 
hacks. It was a time when West Asia, 
churning into revolution, made its 
transition from the Imperialist- 
imposed post-Khilafat feudal-tribal 
settlement of Versailles (as punish- 
ment meted out to the Sultan of Tur- 
key for having had the gall to join 
hands with Kaiser Wilhelm against the 
Allied Powers in the First World War) 
to the genuine Arab nationalism of the 
Nasser-Saddam mould. Paul Johnson, 
the once-great editor of the New 
Statesman, wrote a book on this transi- 
tion titled, entirely oppositely. Jour- 
ney Into Chaos. 

Fo get back, however, to Jansen, 1 
would suggest — once again in all mod- 


esty — to external affairs minister 
Vidya Charan ' Shukla that he 
take as the starting-point of his reflec- 
tions the following lines from Jansen’s 
despatches from the Eyeball-to- 
Eyeball Front: “Seldom can an Impe- 
rial power have proclaimed its impe- 
rial intentions as blatantly as the US 
did yesterday... (in announcing) that 
there will be US forces remaining in 
the Gulf even after an Iraqi withdraw- 
al from Kuwait... What is extraordin- 
ary and shaming is that there has not 
been one word on these matters from 
the Gulf states where the US soldiers 
are going to be semi-permanently gar- 
risoned... A Pax Americana in the 
Gulf can only stiffen the resolve of 
those Arabs who have been support- 
ing Iraq.” {The Times of India, IIII2I 

m. 



64 


SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 





( have watched with growing satisfac- 
tion Jansen’s dawning recognition 
of what the Non-Aligned Movement 
(as it used to be called) must do to 
cope with the world order that is un- 
sheathing itself from the chrysalis as 
the Powers with respect to whom we 
were once non-aligned start aligning 
with each other to establish a joint 
diktat over the future of us all. When 
we, the “emergent nations” (as we 
used to be somewhat patronisingly but 
charmingly called when I first en- 
tered the portals of South Block some 
three decades ago) emerged from col- 
onial thraldom into independence, the 
problem was to preserve our 
sovereignty by resisting the blandish- 
ments (laced with threats) of each 
camp to either throw our lot m with 
one or the other — or face the c(msequ- 
ences of ostracism by both. Jawaharlal 
Nehru preferred to face the consequ- 
ences. And thus was born the Move- 
ment oi the Non-Aligned countries 
which eventually embraced virtually 
every “emergent nation” and two- 
thirds of the member slates of the 
United Nations. 

India alone ot the Non-Aligned 
countries had begun the process of 



in-depth thinking about the post- 
Gorbachev-is-my-best-friend (G. 
Bush) world. An outline of this was 
presented by Rajiv Gandhi at the Un- 
ited Nations in June 1988. It was filled 
out by him in his address to the Non- 
Aligned Summit at Belgrade in 
September 1989. A month later, elec- 
tions were called — and the Congress 
voted out of office. The new Prime 
Minister, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, 
never even began to come to grips 
with foreign policy. The India Interna- 
tional Centre coterie moved into 
South Block. Inevitably, in 11 months 
of unmitigated disaster, the prestige of 
India plummeted, its voice went un- 
heard, us influence atrophied, and its 
foreign policy found itself reduced to 
Bhure Lai, Madhavan and Arun Jait- 
ley bumbling their way all over 
Switzerland and Sweden. It is now for 
Chandra Shekhar and Vidya Charan 
Shukla to pick up the pieces. 

■ have suggested they begin with 
G.H. Jansen not only for the rea.»on 
already given but for a more personal 
reason. 1 had long nursed a great 
admiration for Jansen, a groupie pre- 
dilection which started in my diploma- 


The proximate cause of the crisis in 
the Gulf was the Iraqi annexation of 
Kuwait. It was a violation of interna- 
tional law and order. As such, the 
response should have come from the 
international community as a whole It 
did not 


tic adolescence and was finally rein- 
forced by his utterly revelatory and 
brilliantly written book Militant Islam 
which Jansen published in 1981. than 
which there could be no better intro- 
duction to Ayatollah Khomejm's re- 
volution in Iran, the true significance 
of Zia-ul-Haq’s Nizam-e-Mustafa in 
Pakistan, or, indeed, everything that 
makes the Islamic world move from 
Indonesia to Morocco. I first met Jan- 
sen in the press room in Belgrade. We 
heard Rajiv Gandhi’s speech together. 
As it ended, I turned to him for 
approbation. “Preachy,” he said — and 
stalked off. I am delighted he has now 
begun to see — in the specific context 1 
of the Saddam-Bush confrontation in 
which Gorbachev is playing a sub- 
dued, acquiescent role— that you have 
to begin with preachy principles if you 
are to find practical answ'ers to practic- 
al problems. For, as Montesquieu said 
centuries ago: “The deterioration of 
every government begins with the de- ; 
cay of the principles on which it was 
founded.” The same applies to move- j 
ments. i 

The proximate cause ot the crisis in | 
the Gulf was the Iraqi annexation of | 
Kuwait It w'as a violation ot interna- 
tional law and the international order. 
As such, the response should have | 
j been articulated by the international , 

1 community as a whole. It was not It i 
; has been from start to finish a qumtes- 
i sentially American riposte in which 
I the international community has 
! merely acquiesced. The result is that it ! 
I IS in the White House and not in the j 
I United Nations that decisions are ; 
I being made about \\ar or peace It is ; 
I not a UN force net a VS foice that is | 
taking on Iraq. (Ihe token contin- | 
gents from the other countries are of i 
far less practical value than the women j 
drivers of the US army who are ! 
teaching the Saudi royalty that im- ' 
moralii\ does not begin with female ' 
fingeis turning an ignition ke\!) If ! 
Baghdad is obliterated (don't do it I i 
served there two years, two months, ; 
two days and too long! ) and Tel Aviv ; 
destroyed in turn by binar\ chemical i 
weapons, the beginning of the end will ; 
be in Pennsylvania Avenue and not 
the UN Plaza. And if war is axerted bv 
an Iraqi withdrawal, should it be the 
stars and stripes or the blue flag ol tl.e 
UN that should fluttei ovei tlu 
Kuwdit-lraq border’ And id tar , 
greater long-term signifie.uice n 
the Pentagon and the siju vfLpaa’ 
ment tha^will call the shots m regaid j 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 


65 




MANI'TALK 


to the security arrangements to be put 
in place in' a post-withdrawal scenario, 
or are all of us going to be heard on 
matters of far greater importance to 
Connaught Place and Flora Fountain 
than,! submit in all modesty. Times 
Square or even Peoria? 

It is, of course, unrealistic to expect 
that Great Poweis (iike naughty boys) 
will easily surrender the sweets 
they’ve stolen from others. But if the 
Non-Aligned Movement does not, at 
this critical juncture, stand up for a 
“democracy of nations" (RG at the 
UN) we will — to put it bluntly — inevit- 
ably become the slaves of a second 


Yalta. At Yalta, in the closing phases 
of the Second World War, Roosevelt 
and Stalin (who, remember, were 
quite as pally as Bush and Gorbachev 
arc today), to enthusisatic applause 
from unreconstructed imperialists like 
Churchill (Maggie Thatcher’s — and, 
one fears, John Major’s — role model), 
put together a Superpower condomi- 
nium that effectively divided the rest 
of the world into reserved spheres of 
influence. The tailing out between 
Stalin and Truman in the immediate 
aftermath of VE Day, and the ringing 
down of the Iron Curtain, rendered 
Yalta a mere historical curiosity But 
those who do not learn from history 
are condemned to relive it. If the 
“emergent nations ’ arc to retain their 
independence, they have to struggle 
for the principle of “sovereign equal- 
ity" in international decision-making. 

“Sovereign equality’’ means that 
although countries differ vastly in size, 
population, economic strength, milit- 
ary power and political clout, in the 
one attribute of “sovereignty” all are 
equal and none is more equal than the 
others. It is the application to interna- 


tional relations of the fundamental 
premise of democracy within coun- 
tries — the principle of “one man-one 
vote", which holds that although indi- 
viduals differ vastly in intellectual en- 
dowments, education, economic 
strength, physical prowess and politic- 
al clout, every one has only one vote 
and, in the polling booth, all are equal 
and none more equal than the others. 
When Great Powers flout the princi- 
ple of sovereign equality in intenation- 
al forums, it is the precise equivalent 
of booth-capturing in domestic poli- 
tics- and condemnable for the same 
reason. 


W hat the Non-Aligned Movement 
has to do in the new setting is to 
protect the “sovereign equality" of its 
members from being subordinated to 
the interests of a coterie of Great Pow- 
ers. In the old days, Non-Alignment 
meant we would decide what we 
wanted in New Delhi, and not leave it 
to Washington and Moscow to decide 
what is good tor us. Our problems as 
“emergent nations" are not solved be- 
cause the Americans say “I love Gor- 
bv" or because the Soviet Union 
readies itself to clone the Americans. 
If we want to be ourselves — and that, 
surely, is the whole purpose of our 
having fought for our independence — 
we have to be as wary of mortgaging 
ourselves to both as we earlier were of 
mortgaging ourselves to either. 

That means working towards a 
world order that eschews the “quest 
for dominance" (RG at Belgrade) — at 
least as an ethical imperative and a 
strategic goal. This is no more Uto- 
pian than when Nehru declared in 
1946, just as the Cold War rhetoric 
was reaching a crescendo, that India — 
alone among the countries of the 


world — ^would not align with either 
capitalism or communism. Stalin was 
so annoyed that he refused to see Vi- 
jayalakshmi Pandit, who was our 
ambassador in Moscow, even once 
during her entire tenure. And the 
Americans were so infuriated that 
Dulles comdemned Non-Alignment as 
“immoral". Today they are locked in 
an armed embrace (embrace, yes, but 
armed too — which is why general and 
complete disarmament remains a 
cherished Non-Aligned objective); it 
is they who have come around to our 
view, not we who have gone around to 
theirs. That is what real power is all 
about — the power of the mind, not the 
bogus power of arms and bluster. 

V.P. Singh understood none of this. 
So, the torch fell from our hands. The 
Non-Aligned Movement was plunged 
in darkness. It is now for our new 
leaders to light the lamp again: Lead, 
Kindly Light. Nothing could initiate 
them better than a perusal of Rajiv 
Gandhi at Belgrade: 

An end to dominance was what we 
sought, an end to the outdated be- 
lief that it was in any way legitimate 
for nations with muscle to impose 
any kind of hegemony— military, 
political or economic — i^ver other 
nations... Our endeavours began in 
the human mind, for it is the hu- 
man mind that is at once the reposi- 
tory of the detritus of the past and 
the engine of change for the future. 
In doing so, we pitted the moral 
force of Non-Alignment against the 
muscle power of bloc politics. It is 
that moral force which has proved 
decisive in the last three decade- 
s...lt is the growing acceptance of 
the need for co-existence which 
gives us cause for optimism. But let 
optimism not yield to euphoria 
(for) there is as yet no vision of a 
new world order in which domina- 
tion and the pursuit of dominance 
will come to an end.” 

And if they want to find the rest of 
the speech — and all else that has gone 
into the world-view that must inspire 
our moral leadership in the world 
community — they (and you, dear 
reader,) might wish to gel yourselves a 
copy of Rajiv Gandhi's World View , 
edited and introduced by Maharaj 
Krishna Rasgotra, and just published 
by Vikas. It is a New Year’s gift that 
the world, plunging like lemmings be- 
hind the Americans into a wholly un- 
necessary war, desperately needs. • 


The views expressed in this column are those Of its 
author and do not purport to constitute an official 
statement of the Congress party s position. 



In 1 1 months of unmitigated disaster the prestige of India plummeted. Its 
foreign policy found itself reduced to Bhure Lai and Arun Jaltley 
bumbling their way all over Switzerland and Sweden. It is now for 
Chandra Shekhar and V.C. Shukla to pick up the pieces 


66 


SUNDAY 13—19 January 1991 



AcBrg in harmony 

Nandikar serves the national cause 



one each in Marathi and Dogri), the 
selection represented a very broad 
spectrum of contemporary Indian 
theatre. Two groups each arrived from 
Bombay and Bhopal, one each from 
Delhi and Jammu, with a Calcutta 
company completing the tally. 

There was something for everyone: 
two modern versions of classical Sans- 
krit drama by Kalidasa and Bhasa, a 
pair of plays based on familiar epi- 
sodes from the Mahahharata and 
Ramayana (Pancha Ratra and Ramli- 


A scene from MfflwMar forceful protest 


^^■■he powers that be," says 
I Rudraprasad Sengupta, 
■ head of Calcutta's Nandikar 
theatre group, “talk a lot about com- 
munal harmony; but do they do any- 
thing about it? Here, in the theatre 
world, we actually live communal har- 
mony; through the national festivals 
we organise, we bring Indian com- 
munities together in amity, exchang- 
ing intellectual ideas and establishing 
personal relationships, serving the 
cause of national integration through 
our art. Yet, we have rarely received 
government support, while so many 
other cultural agencies get official 
funds without achieving anything." 

Sengupta has a point. Every De- I 
cember, for the last seven years, his ' 
Bengali group has succeeding in host- 
ing a national theatre festival that has 
become the high spot in the local 
cultural calendar. Nandikar has been 
able to convince nearly 40 major 
troupes, from far-flung places 
throughout India, to participate in this 
festival; it has also honoured over a 
score of eminent Indian theatre work- 
ers with awards at the inaugural func- 
tion. 

What IS unique is that the events are 
not mere formal occasions: audiences 
throng to watch the performances, 
whether the play is in Marathi or Man- 
ipuri, from Kerala or from Kashmir, 
forming serpentine queues and buying 
out shows in advance within hours of 
the tickets going on scale. 

Nevertheless, this year’s festival, 
held between 7 and 13 December, 
1990, nearly had to be cancelled at the 
last moment due to lack of financial 
sponsorship. In lecenl years, in fact, 
at the last session of each festival, 

' Sengupta has expressed grave doubts 
about repeating the event the follow- 
ing year, because of uncertain 
funding. 

This year, ITC generously bailed 
them out just weeks before the start 
because, as Sengupta recalls, one of its 
top executives had been impressed by 
Nandikar’s theatrical productions 
many years ago. Still, on the conclud- 
ing evening, he once again repeated 
his reservations about the possibility 
of holding an eighth festival in 1991. 

Although, this time, most of the 
. productions were in Hindi (barring 


la), Hindi translations of a couple of 
post-World War II hits in English 
(Priestley’s An Inspector Calls as Aaj 
Raat, and Nashe's The Rainmaker as 
Barishwala), and two dramatisations 
of recent Indian novels fZw/v«and 
Mahabhoj). 

Stylistically, too, there was balance. 
The originally English plays were set 
in detailed naturalistic indoor decor, 
while the others generally eschewed 
scenery but utilised colourful Indian 
folk methods of performance. Indeed, 
the opening and closing productions — 
Zulva by Bombay’s IPTA and Ramlila 
by Delhi’s Parvatiya Kala Kendra — 
were grand displays of folk-based 
vigour. The effect of the festival, in its 
entirety, was to weigh the advisability 
of imbuing recent urban theatre with 
our folk heritage. 

One of the interesting productions 
was Kalidasa’s Shakuntala, done by 
1 Rangmandal from Bhcpal, under the 


Manipuri director, Sankhya It)o- 
tombe. He dressed the entire drama in 
Manipuri garb, romantic, pictorial and 
aesthetic, using traditional styles of 
dance, music and costume that recal- 
led Tagore's similar and successful ex- 
periments in his dance-dramas of the 
193()s. Another notable production 
was Mahabhoj, by Natrang from Jam- 
mu. It was directed by Balwant Tha- 
kur, wiiu, presented a forceful indict- 
ment of ruthless landowners. Its form 
of protest had the usual positive influ- 
ence on the audience. 

Ramlila, at the end. incarnated Sen- 
gupta’s belief that the theatre world 
has an active hand in bringing comun- j 
ities together. A Muslim actor did the ! 
lead role, and Ayodhya’s denizens 
welcomed Ram and Sita with songs 
beginning '"Mubarak ho". Altogether, 
a great theatrical instance of commun- 
al harmony. • 

I AmmdMLMl/Calcutta 


SUNDAY 13—19 January 1991 


67 




SPOTUGI 


Pseudo-patriotism— BOMBAY ishtyle 


HIIIIIIIIIH After 
HHHS Ramesh Sip- 
py and B.R. Chopra, it 
IS now Subhash Ghai’s 
turn to shift his attention 
to the small screen. 

And, in keeping with the 
current rage of pseudo- 
patriotism, his tele serial 
Pyar Ki Ganga Bahe is 
based on the theme of 
national integration. 

Starring such major 
Bombay stars as Anil 
Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, 
Salman Khan, Aamir 
Khan and Govinda, the 
serial will, apparently, 
be an yet another exam- 
ple of the Mera Bharat 
Mahaan kind of jingo- 
ism, and is scheduled for 
telecast around the first 
week of January. 

Since national integra- 
tion is the message to be 



(From Mt) AnI Kapoor, 


Jackie ShroH, Aamir Khan 
and Govinda: Mara Bfiarat 
Mahaan 

conveyed to viewers, 
five Southern stars will 
be brought on mid-way, 
in a tribute to tokenism. 

But with such frame- 
hoggers as Anil Kapoor 
and Salman Khan 
around, it seems unlike- 
ly that they’ll have much 
to do. 


GAUTAM PATOLE 




SubhashGhai: going the 
B.R. Chopra way 



Sorry, wrong image! 


Now that 
the City Of 
Joy is all set to go on the 
floors, it’s the turn of In 
The Name Of The God's 
Poor to get embroiled in 
controversy. 

Conceived by Domini- 

? ue Lapierrc (writer of 
'ity Of Joy: the novel), 
the film proposed to por- 
tray the life and work of 
Mother Teresa, and the 
order she founded, the 
Missionaries of Charity. 
Permission from the 
Mother was forthcoming 
all too soon, and work 
began in right p::mest. 

But Mother Teresa 
wasn’t too keen on how 
the script developed, 
and even the changes in- 
corporated by Lapierre 


didn’t satisfy her. So, 
she shot off a letter to 
the Union information 
and broadcasting minis- 
try, withdrawing permis- 
sion to the film, saying 
that the script did not 
“reflect our spirit and 


ideal” and that she was 
displeased by the way in 
which she, and some of 
her nuns, had been de- 
picted. 

It’s now up to Lapier- 
re to make the next 
move. 



Hevazjust 

VISITING 


He'd confes- 
sed to being 
more than fond of 
Rekha Ganesan. But 
when Labour MP Keith 
Vaz arrived in Bombay 
towards the year-end, it 
was Sharad Pawar he 
met, not the dusky 
temptress of the Indian 
silver screen. 

With the Maharashtra 
chief minister, however, 
it was strictly business. 
The Indian-born mem- 
ber of the British House 
of Commons discussed 
the advantages of form- 
ing a joint Indo-Anglian 
task force to lobby for 
the creation of a single 


68 


SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 











Compiled by SEEMA GOSWAMI 




SECULARISM 


■■■■I say, imitates 
life. But at the function 
organised to mark the 
death anniversary of 
theatre-person Safdar 
Hashmi, brutally killed 
two years ago by a bunch 
of lumpens, art attemp- 
ted to improve on life, 
with “Artistes Against 
Communalism” staging 
performances to convey 
the message of commun- 
al harmony and secu- 
larism. 

While celebrated 
Bharatanatyam expo- 
nent Sonal Mansingh 
presented a special com- 
position on the occasion, 
the duo of Radha and 
Raja Reddy enthralled 
viewers with a piece on 









(ClockwiM from above) Sonal 
Against Communalsni 

the theme of love and 
peace. 

Among the other per- 
formers were dancers 
Yamini Krishnamurthy 
and Birju Maharaj and 
such well-known classic- 
al musicians as Amjad 
Ali Khan, Asad Ali 
Khan, Hariprasad 
Chaurasia and Shafat 
Ahmad Khan. Several 
plays were staged on the 
subject of equality and 
universal brotherhood, 
while painters worked 
on posters which con- 


Monsbigli, Amjad Al Khan, Yambil Kritlmamiiniiy : ArUslos 


veyed much the same 
ideas. 

Later, an appeal was 
issued, signed by ail the 
participants, which said: 
“We, the artistes com- 
munity of India are 
deeply pained by the 
growth of communalism 
in recent days. . .We in- 
creasingly feel that we 
can no longer be silent 
spectators to the des- 
truction of these values 
(secularism and cultural 
pluralism).” 

Hence, the flurry of 


artistic activity. Sure, it 
may not improve the 
situation just yet, but as 
beginnings go it wasn’t 
too bad. 








ise Sihare's talents. And 


transferred him back to 


the National Museum as 


director-general, a post 
he will occupy until his 
retirement 


What’s the betting 


that he’ll get an exten 
sion well before that? 













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Kamadontheseteof Manas; a Doordarshan first 


The lunatic fringe 

Kamad's serial-to-be explores mental disease 


S erials on Doordarshan have 
been divorced from realit> too 
often, regaling viewers with 
flounced-up history, <>r packing them 
off to bed early, bored in the company 
of insipid characters in search of their 
non-existent selves It is rarely that we 
see lelevant themes examined in a 
contemptirary light. ! 

But writer-director Girish karnad is i 
planning to bring to tlie small screen 
his forays into a subject that has been 
swept under the carpet too long, be- 
cause of societal ostracism. Titled 
Manas . the serial deals w'lth mental 
illness, and hopes to edify viewers on 
the point of its curability. 

Based on selected portions of case 
studies by psychiatrist Dr Ashok Pai, 
Manas will cover 13 case histones, 
over 26 episodes Exploring the entire 
gamut of mental ailments ranging 
from compulsive neurosis to mass hys- 
teria, the series aims at dispelling 
myths about such illnesses. 

“Everyone is very excited about this 
series as this is the first time that this 
subject has been taken up by the small 


screen,” says Karnad enthusiasucalh 
With two of his episodes already in the 
cans, the director hopes lo gel clear- 
ance from Mandi House — and the ^ 
pm slot on Doordarshan — soon 

The idea came to Karnad at a 
chance meeting with Pai, but it was 
not till three years after that he was 
able to start work on it. Since then, 
there have been endless inroads into 
psychology and psychiatric cases 
“The problem was that cvcry nuance 
had to be captured correctly. With 
different types of illness manifesting in 
different ways, a lot of work needed to 
be done on the wavs to portray each 
case,” Karnad told Sono w. 

The directoi is aware that the case 
histones he is to present might be- 
come the focal point of debate by 
other psychiatrists. “But, there are as 
many schools of psychiatry as there 
are schools of thought m any other 
field. There are bound Ui be disagree- 
ments,” says Karnad. 

The format of all the episodes will 
be identical. Beginning with an inst- 


ance of the particular form of mental 
illness being depicted, it will move on 
to show the progression t;t the disease, 
and the reaction to it, ending finally 
with the therapy and a summing-up. 
Presented by different actors, (all new 
faces) in each episode, the constant 
factor will be Karnad himself, playing 
the role of the psychiatrist. 

Psychiatrist PaTs clinic in Shimoga 
has taken up a number of community 
I awareness schemes in regard to mcn- 
I ta! health and he regards the tele- 
^Jrial as an extension of his program- ! 
mes, feeling that “with a director like j 
Karnad at the helm, and the showing | 
of such a subject on the national hook- ! 
up, there will be a tremendous boost 
to awareness of mental health.” He 
says, “We expect a lot of good to come 
about through Manas . 

And, perhaps, eventually the gov- , 
ernment may be persuaded to take a ; 
serious view of the plight of our men- 
tally-ill population abandoned on the 
streets. • 

I 

Gauri Lankesh/Bangalore I 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 


71 




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Pele footage from my Wills Video Of 
Excellence: Football, dub some toe- 
tapping instrumental music over it 
and, presto, there’s the tribute.” 

It is the periodicity of Sports Chan- 
nel that could prove its biggest un- 
doing. For news to have the shelf-life 
of a month, its treatment will have to 
be interpretative and background- 
information-oriented. The November 
edition, for example, has in its (appa- 
rent) news section an ambiguous re- 


no Casiraghi, the prince of powerboat 
racing, all figure in the "'news’' sec- 
tion. So much for the promise of a 
"global wrap-up”. 

The blurb on the cassette jacket 
claims it will tell you "How much 
Atlanta spent to get the 1996 Olym- 
pics” but, in fact, it tells you nothing 
about it. Instead, there is a series of 
fleeting glimpses of the candidate 
cities before the Juan Samaranch 
announcement of the Games being 
awarded to Atlanta. Such sloppiness is 
unforgiveable, especially when it corn- 


doubted, will have to be a lot more 
choosy and catholic about the contents 
of future editions. Interpretative re- 
portage will have to back the dated 
clips. Merely superimposing Indian 
voices (Bhaskar Bhattacharya and 
Rini Khanna) does not constitute ori- 
ginality. And there is tremendous 
scope to cover Indian sport too. How 
the November issue could go without 
any reference to the Asian Games 
ought to mystify any sports lover. 

There is more to a sports video- 
magazine than a mish-mash of readily 
available (though not necessarily 
readily relevant to Indian audiences) 
footage from Channel 9, Skynews, 
IMG and other networks. • 
AohokKaumth 


Sports Cfianna/ produced by Dev Features. Pnoe;R8 
140 . 


















KHAASBAAT 


*Vo Subhash Ghai goes 
the dubious honour of in- 
troducing some of the iciest 
women on the Indian film 
screen. While the cold and 
withdra^^n Meenakshi 
Seshadri and Madhuri Dixit 
have always gone out of 
their way to prove their 
aloofness, the new Ghai 
find Manisha Koirala, too, 
tries extremely hard to pro- 
ject an icy and disdainful 
exterior. The operative 
word being exterior, wit- 
ness the warm vibes she 
shares with Ghai on the 
sets — and off them, no 


I f 1990 was the year that 
gave Salman Khan, the 
midget son of script-writer 
Salim Khan, a fresh lease in 
life, courtesy Maine Pyar 
Kiya it was also the year 
which saw the emergence 
of the new supercilious, 
utterly pompous High- 
strung Khan. 

While tales of his shock- 
ing unprofessionalism 
abound, the gravest casual- 
ty so far has been producer 
Nitin Manmohan. Salman 
harassed Nitin so much 
during the making of 
Baaghi that he now vows 



Manteha Kolrata: going tha. Madhuri Dfxlt(riglit) way 


doubt. 

Recently at the shooting 
of Saudagar in Maha- 
baleshwar, while the other 
stars including Raaj Kumar 
and Dilip Kumar made 
merry and went for long 
walks in the picturesque 
locale, Manisha locked her- 
self in her room emerging 
only to give her shot or to 
play an occasional game of 
table-tennis. 

It remains to be seen how 
Manisha's personality de- 
velops. If she goes the for- 
bidding Iyengar way, trans- 
mitting cold vibes on 
screen, it may well prove 
detrimental for her career. 
But if she turns out to be 
another Madhuri Dixit, 
who sizzles on-screen, nev- 
er mind the icy disdain off- 
camera, there could be 
hope for her yet. 


never to have anything to 
do with stars. 

Manmohan has promised 
to pick up an absolute new- 
comer for his next film and 
make him a star in quite the 
same manner that Ghai did 
with Jackie Shroff in Hero. 
And the producer has 
turned his attention on to 

Salman Khan: shooting 
hlmsoN toitholsqg 






JuN Chawla: RtoM has bottor Idsto 

Juhi, however, was not too 
taken in with the garish 
ghagra-choli which could, 
with a few minor changes, 
pass off as another dance 
costume from a Hindi 


Now we know why 
Neelam Kothari gave up on 
the chap. 

^\nil Kapoor has finally 
realised that commercial 
success is not all there is to 
a long and fruitful film 
career. So, the actor has 
decided that it is time to 
turn to more meaningful 
roles. Obviously the dismal 
fate of most of his recent 
releases like Amba, Jeevan 
Ek Sangharsh and Jamai 
Raja have taught the 
shrewd Kapoor a lesson or 
two in survival. And he’s 
begun scouting around for 
a new image. 

It says something for 
Kapoor’s desperation in 
this regard that he has 
signed up for a negative 
role in Apradhi. The film 
has no songs and no ro- 
mance, either, despite the 
fact that the female lead is 
someone full of southern 
promise: Vijayshanti. 

Perhaps, some genuine 
emoting, and intensity 
(without the effort show- 
ing) might help. Maybe, 
Kapoor could recast him- 
self along the Naseeruddin I 
Shah lines. 

But, like the old showbiz 
saying goes — if he could, he 
probably would. • 


Kamal Sadanah who — after 
his recent bereavement — 
could do with some good 
luck. 


iMuhi Chawla will have 
fond memories of her birth- 
day this year. Though the 
actress was extremely busy 
shooting for Rishta Ho To 
ALsa, co-star and “good 
friend” Rishi — the cherubic 
has-been of the Kapoor 
khandaan — got her a rum 
cake. And in between shots 
the two were found to be in 
high spirits, giggling like a 
pair of giddy-headed teena- 
gers out on their first date. 

But there was more in 
store for the vivacious 
Chawla. While the day was 
spent with Rishi, at night 
Govinda landed up at her 
house with a special gift. 


GAUTAM PATOlE 







CONTROVERSY 


To share, or not to? 


The National Library’s latest venture comes under fire 


I t was either ovcrreaction, moti- 
vated by the worst sort of zenopho- 
bia, or an expression of genuine 
anxiety about what could be termed 
cultural colonialism. But whatever the 
correct interpretation, C^dcutta — 
especially its academics — cried foul at 
reports that one ot its few remaining 
points of pride and interest, the 
National Library, was about to be di- 
vested of Its importance. 

A scheme under the DS-India 
Rupee Fund proposed the micro- 
filming of early 2()lh century South- 
Asian books for purposes ot aichival 
preservation The proiect tor a com- 
puterised data-base was to be under- 
taken on the basis ot the National 
Bibliography On Indian L.itcraturc. 
190I-TJ53, edited bv B.S Kesavan, 
and envisioned a sharetl storage lacil- 
iiy that would at once benefit both the 
Library ot ( ongicss, USA, and the 
Natuftial I ibtaiv, ( alcutla 

Hut Suhas Dasgupta and Makhan 
Lai Sil, president and secretary re- 
spectively of llie National Library 
Staff Association, peiceive in the 
proposed prt)|ect snusier and interna- 
tional designs to pilter intormalion 
from the counti\‘s leading house of 
archives 

“Why weie we not intormed of the 
project We only got to know ot it at 
the end ot November in a letter fi.^m 
the librarian,'* says Sil Dasgupta 
adds, “The master-negative ol each 
m!cr(vtilni is to be kept m the USA. 
This IS the focus of our written com 
plaint to Saral Deb, (minister ot state 
for librarv atfairs) who we met on IS 
December. " 

But the National labrary is le- 
sponsible to the C entral gtivernment. 
What did the West Bengal minister 
have to do with its internal wrangles? 
Tne minister himselt admitted, when 
contacted on 2 Janu.iry, that 

matters concerning the library 
wouldn’t ordinarily come under his 
purview. I'xcept, he amended, by vir- 
tue of being situated in Calcutta, it 
would be expected to “concern" him 
“1 have to meet the librarian and find 
out her views. And I am also consult- 
ing an expert on the matter." 

M.L. Sil hints darkly at other mis- 
doings of the library officials. One of 
them is the unauthorised removal of 

SUNDAY 13—19 January 1991 


valuable books. Theft? Under closed- 
circuit television? “Naturally,” he 
says, “it is not the visitors to the lib- 
rary who are in a position to steal — 
not unless they have inside help." 

Kalpana Dasgupta, librarian, and 
acting-director of the National Library 
since May 1990, dismisses the last 
allegation with finality; “What theft? 
Let them come and tell me, what 
theft. I will not reply to generalised 
and unsubtantiated allegations like 
this.” 

But, for the project for the pre- 
servation of books in the library, she is 


from the plan with the US Library of 
Congress, Kalpana Dasgupta says, 
and nothing to lose. “Ht)w else to get 
negatives of international standard?” 
she demands, other than by resort to 
an international venture “We don't 
possess the facilities for preservation 
along these lines. If anything, after the 
project gets underway, I will be in a 
position to approach the government 
for greater storage facilities — a vault, 
a specialised unit, the requisite staff,” 
Dasgupta is transparently amazed 
that a cooperative effort along the 
lines of the preservation plan should 



» A ■ rsB 


A view of the library: nation’s storehouse 

all enthusiasm. Didn't she view it m 1 
the light of the library losing its hold t 
on information? “So what'’" she re- ; 
torts, “A library is for tin dissemma- 1 
tion ot mtormation, not its with- r 


holding!" 

.Moreover, at a committee meeting 
on lb December, she had ensured that 
the contentious master-negative, 
when It came about, would remain 
with the National Library. The staff 
association is not aware of this as. she 
says, she is waiting for the official 
minute' of the meeting to be made 
available to her before passing on the 
informanon. 

rhe library has everything to gam 


become a cause ot acrimony among 
the SHO-member staff and worse, j 
accusations m the press. Indian scho- j 
lais c.iimot hope to avail ot books m j 
ma,or libraries abroad, she says So. | 
by enlenng into a sharing s\stein with ' 
these libraries, the National Libiaiv ! 
can come bv information that will then ' 
become accessible to scholars m the | 
country. | 

'Lhe matter, then, appeals ut veer 
around the question, to share, oi not • 
to shaic? Nothing given nor \en- I 
tured - some say is nothing gamed 
Others appear to think ditferentiv | 
that a little knowledge is a sater ; 
thing.* i 

Prita Maitn/Calcutta j 

75 



BOOK EXTRACT 


UCENCE 

TOIOU. 

That's how Sakuntala Narasimhan sees sati 


T he arguments of those who 
have opposed the law ban- 
ning sati are built round cer- 
tain basic contentions. The 
first one —and the most 
strongly articulated defence — is that 
sati is a purely voluntary act and there- 
fore not to be equated with murder. 
The other is that, considering the size 
of the population, it is a minuscule and 
insignificant number of widows who 
receive the ‘inspiration’ to go through 
such an awesome act and because of 
this, legislation is neither called for 
nor proper. The third premise is that 
the law is an infringement of an indi- 
vidual's fundamental right to faith 
guaranteed under the constitution, 
and hence objectionable. 

While condemning the use of force 
as wrong, the pro-sati argument insists 
that sati is “always a voluntary act”, 
one that calls for great courage and 
therefore worthy of veneration. Bal 
Singh Rathore, father of Rewp Kan- 
war who burned to death in Septem- 
ber 1987, said at a meeting with the 
press a year later that he was con- 
vinced that his daughter had not been 
coerced into burning and that she had 
decided quite voluntarily to end her 
life in this manner in spite of attempts 
by her aunts and in-laws to dissuade 
her. (He was not present at the im- 
molation). 

The Shankaracharya of Pun who 
has been vociferously condemning 
the introduction of legislation pro- 
hibiting sati has likewise declared that 
sati is always voluntary. Vijayaraje 
Scindia of the royal family of Gwalior, 
now a prominent political leader of 
the Bharatiya Janu^la Party, has de- 
fended sati and maintained that “a 
voluntary act of self-immolation by a 
widow in dedication of her husband 
does not constitute an offence". 

If sati was indeed a voluntary act. 


what does one make of the several 
eye-witness descriptions recorded by 
different persons at different places 
and at different times, giving graphic 
details of the use of force? In the 
Roop Kan war incident of 1987, first 
reports from those believed to have 
been eye-witnesses claimed that her 
steps had been unsteady on the way to 
the cremation ground, and that she 
had been frothing at the mouth. 
(Others insisted that she had been 
smiling and calm, but no one will 
come forward to corroborate details 
one way or the other for fear of being 
charged with participation in an illegal 
act). She is also said to have shouted 
“mummy, papa,” and flailed her 
hands when the flames caught; the 
‘voluntary theorists’ claim, was a ges- 
ture of benediction to the crowd pre- 
sent, and not one of agony. 

It is known that at the Roop Kan- 
war incident in 1987, sword wielding 
Rajput youths surrounded her as she 
set out for the cremation ground, and 
formed a ring round the pyre. 

The picture that these accounts 
build up is one that is far from the 
romantic vision of a devoted, love- 
lorn wife voluntarily snuffing out her 
life because of unbearable grief over 
the death of the husband. 

Rajput women in particular re- 
ceived this kind of indoctrination so 
that burning oneself came to be 
looked upon as a “privilege attaching 
to their blue blood” and consequently 
Rajput immolations were, in a sense, 
“more voluntary”. Not just married 
women but even betrothed girls saw 
such a gesture as de rigueur. 

S uch indoctrination in the exalta- 
tion of woman’s capacity to exult 
in a “sub-personal level” (the more 
effacing, the more meritorious) is so 
complete that women themselves can 



show hostility towards those of their 
sex who do not fit the mould. Women 
who believe in and look for selfhood, 
women who seek an identity of their 
own apart from their roles as their 
husbands’ wives, women who want 
economic indepenence and question 
the sexual status quo, are derided as 
“strident, unfeminine feminists” (in 
the same manner that feminists are 
denigrated in other regions of the 
world too). On my way from Bombay 
to Jaipur in August 1988, a fellow 
passenger on the train, had told me 
that there was a temple at Deorala 
which was over 2(K) years old. When I 
arrived in the village and asked my 
way to “the temple”, it was the sati 
sthal (where Roop Kanwar had 
burned to death) that 1 was directed 
to. After I had spent some minutes at 
the sati sthal, one of the women pre- 
sent suggested that I go inside the 


76 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 




“temple”; as I went inside the small 
structure to a side where incense sticks 
were placed before a large picture of 
Roop Kanwar, a cluster of curious 
onlookers followed me and watched 
my movements. As I was coming out, 
1 heard one of ihe women remark 
sharply. “She has not conic to offer 
puja to sati mata". I had not offered 
obeisance, nor bi ought flowers and 
coconuts as offerings, and that seemed 
to add a shade of hostility to their 
responses thereafter. 

It is interesting to note that when 
Rammohun Roy was invited to attend 
the hearing of the pro-sati petition 
before the privy council in London in 
1832, he accepted the invitation with 
the remark that he would “not fail to 
be present there at 11 o'clock to wit- 
ness personally the scene in which an 
English gentleman of highly liberal 
education, professing Christianity, is 


to pray for the re-establishment of 
suicide and in many instances actual 
murder”. 

And a century-and-a-half further on 
too, a Rajput woman echoed again the 
same sentiments of resignation in her 
comments after the Roop Kanwar 
sati. Speaking to a social worker who 
was present at the sati sthal on the 
thirteenth day after the immolation 
when the chunari ceremony was held, 
a widow named Uma Devi said that 
sati was not a voluntary act. “I am a 
widow”, she said, “I know what it is to 
lose one's husband. You go insane. It 
IS cruel to term an act of insanity as an 
act of voluntary bravery. It is the 
womenfolk in the household who use 
a moment of weakness and madness to 
encourage you to die...” The Rajput 
women sitting around and listening to 
her conversation with the social work- 
er frowned upon Uma Devi and 


started a spirited defence of sati. “Our 
husband is our God, when he is gone it 
IS best to go w'lth him”, they said. 

The entire argument about the 
voluntary nature of sati is raised on 
the premise that a woman's reaction to 
her husband's death is — and ought to 
be- typified by the sentiment; “I 
loved him so much that I cannot con- 
ceive of a life without him”. This con- 
tention splices two separate state- 
ments in a way that has made for an 
incendiary extension in logic. “I can- 
not conceive of a life without him” is 
the reaction that is incontrovertible, 
but not necessarily for the reasons 
adduced in the first clause. That loo, 
yes, to be sure, but making it the 
principal clause has resulted in a blur- 
ring of two different perspectives. She 
cannot conceive of a life without her 
husband because her life as a widow is 
expected to be, and will be, a fate 




BOOK EXTRACT 


often worse than a quick, even if 
horrible, end. Ergo, she “voluntatily” 
chooses a fiery death — even “cheerful- 
ly” insists on it sometimes — abetted in 
her response by the heady mystique 
that has come to be associated with 
sati. 

According to the Shankaracharya of 
Puri, who says he had a team investi- 
gate the Deorala incident of 1987, 
“When Roop Kanwar was trying to 
commit sati and her father-in-law tried 
to save her by holding her back, there 
was a lightning effect from her body 
and he was thrown back”. (And yet, 
according to another report, the same 
father-in-law claimed to have been 
“unconscious” throughout the event). 

In a village near Deorala, the site 
where a male and a female cobra were 
co-cremated is said to be drawing 
worshippers in the same way as Roop 
Kanwar's sati sthal. The chunari cere- 
mony performed for this ‘sati’ re- 
portedly drew 500 persons. 

A t Deorala, the myths woven 
around Roop Kanwar’s death in- 
clude stories of sick persons getting 
miraculously cured by a visit to the sati 
sthal. The bits of details that surfaced 
in the media reports, about her piety 
even as a child and her preference for 
idols rather than dolls, and her fre- 
quent visits to the sati temple so that 
she was ‘inspired’, stories about how 
she whispered in her husband’s ear to 
seek his permission (tor her immola- 
tion) and how he had come alive for a 
moment ^to grant it, were all part of 
the interweaving of fact and fiction 
that has always gone into the making 
of the sati mystique. (Other reports, 
for instance, discount the pious girl 
theory and say she was a fun-loving 
girl who wore modern clothes and 
painted her nails bright red.) 

For the first time, one report 
claimed, she had removed the ghim- 
ghat (veil) in front of her in-law's while 
declaring her intention of becoming a 
sati; and for the first time, another 
said, she pronounced the name of her 
husband (which wives brought up in a 
conservative tradition would not nor- 
mally do). There is no way of confirm- 
ing whether these details were fabrica- 
tions or had any factual basis but they 
spotlight not so much on a supranatu- 
ral take-over of the widow as the inter- 
pretation of gestures like removing the 
veil or pronouncing the name of the 
husband as supranormal impulses 
worthy of wonder. A woman remov- 
ing her veil in front of her in-laws in a 
conservative family would probably be 

78 


rebuked for being disrespectful; the 
'*same gesture in a different context 
I becomes part of a leaction o^ exalta- 
I tion because of the aura around such a 
death? 

A few months after Roop Kanwar’s 
death, I was at Deorala village where 
the immolation took place. As I 
approached the sati sthal and came 
upon the clearing with the fenced off 
ciemation platform in the middle, an 
eerie, high-pitched wailing assailed my 
ears. I’here were some 40 men and 
women standing around or moving ab- 
out in the clearing but there was no 
other sound in the hushed mid- 
morning air except this loud, unnerv- 
ing lament. 

It came from an elderly, frail look- 
ing woman, middle class judging from 
' her clothes; like almost every woman 
pre.sent there, she too had her sari 
pallu drawn over her head in the tradi- 
tional style. She was sitting on the 
ground in front of the enclosure and 
crying and talking by turns, as if she 
were addressing a plea to someone 

I had thought at first that she was 
perhaps someone from Roop Kan- 
war’s family mourning the girl's death, 
but It turned out that this was a visitor 


seeking the sati mata's intervention in 
ridding herself of the spell of black 
magic that she seemed to be convinced 
some evil antagonist had cast on her 
family. After a while she got to her 
feet and, assisted by two men who 
supported her one on either side, cir- 
cled the sthal once, raising a loud sup- 
plication all the time addressed to the 
deified sati mata who was, in her reck- 
oning, capable of granting all kinds of 
favours and boons. 

Even the Shankaracharya of Puri 
has said that “ever since this anti-sati 
law was enacted, nature has been re- 
volting. Today, when we should be 
feeling the heat of summer, it is cold. 
The monsoons bring no rain. And un- 
timely rainfall has destroyed crops 
ready for harvest. All because sati has 
been insulted”. 

It was because of Roop Kanwar’s 
sati that Rajasthan had good rains in 
1988 after a long spell of drought, the 
pro-sati factitm claimed! 

A sati is said to w'ork miracles be- 
fore, during and after her immolation. 
Even the chunari was supposed to rise 
up and disappear into the heavens 
during the thirteenth day ceremony, 
according to thcs myths about sati. No 



SUNDAY 13-19 January 199T 


BOOK EXTRACT 


such miracle, however, took place, as 
one witness regretfully conceded. 
Roop Kanwar’s parents have said that 
the message about the planned im- 
molation did not reach them in time at 
Jaipur 90 minutes away “because the 
vehicle bringing the message broke 
down” and this breakdown was inter- 
preted as divine intervention, to en- 
sure that the parents did not try to 
prevent the burning. (In actual fact, 
another vehicle had had a break- 
down.) 

That this kind of burden in the 
shape of mystique born of indoctrina- 
tion is still as strong as tver is exempli- 
fied by a comment that one widow 
made in the wake of the Roop Kanwar 
sati. “It is because some widows do 
not observe all the penances pre- 
scribed for them that the rams fail 
these days”, she said. If a woman 
brave enough to burn to death is 
deified, lesser beings living on as 
widows, by extension, become con- 
tempitble - even in their own guilty 
estimations, such is the seduction of 
the sati mystique. 

I n the wake of the Roop Kanwar 
sati,^a monk of the Ramkrishna 


Math of Allahabad who condemned 
sati was prompted to add: “What one 
has to admire — whether the practice 
Itself is right or wrong — is the 
tremendous courage displayed by 
these noble ladies who cared more for 
their cherished ideal than for their 
lives. Honour and chastity were every- 
thing for them and life was like a straw 
when compared to these.” 

The elaborate directions and 
ritualistic etiquette is also part of the 
my.stification of sati — who should try 
to save her first, and who should make 
the attempt next, what expiation is 
necessary and sufficient if she is in the 
prohibited category and still wants to 
burn. 

Ananda ( oomaraswamy in a much- 
quoted passage has said, “This last 
proof of the perfect unity of body and 
soul, this devotion beyond the grave, 
has been chosen by many of our West- 
ern critics as our reproach; we differ 
from them m thinking of our suttee 
not with pity, but with understanding, 
respect and love So far from being 
ashamed of our suttee, we take pride 
m them, that is even true of the most 
progressive ami^ng us ” 


However, he went on to add that it 
was “true that in aristocratic circles 
sati became to some degree a social 
convention, and pressure was put on 
unwilling individuals... and from this 
point of view we cannot but be glad 
that it was prohibited by law in 1829” 
(italics mine). 

He thus conceded that use of force 
was wrong, but the question of force is 
complicated when seen in the broader 
perspective of indoctrination born of 
mystique. 

One argument puts it this way: “Be- 
cause of westernised ideas we call 
womenfolk as (the) weaker sex. But 
according to Hindu tradition and 
mythology, our women were called 
Shakfi No wonder they a.scended the 
funeral pyre deliberately and steadily 
into the centre of the flames, sat down 
(and) and leaned back in the midst of 
It as if reposing on a coach.” 

The martyrdom of Queen Padmini 
never ceases to inspire us”, another 
journalist has said. Inspire us to what? 
In similar vein, an American has said, 
“Sati IS the resort of a new widow 
who, unable to imagine living without 
her husband, follows him to the other 
world, a sort of ultimate expression of 
faith and courage of Hindu wife. The 
Hindu villager knows this instinctively 
and acts with deep respect and honour 
for satis like Roop Kanwar, w'hile the 
middle-class Indian, infected by West- 
ern culture and frightened by what the 
white man might think of him, rejects 
this native wisdom.” 

This spiritual influence that lends 
sati Its ciedcnce makes for pedantry of 
the kind that seeks approval for the 
event (ghatana) but condemns it as an 
institution iprathj) or practice. While 
in theory, it makes a distinction be- 
tween the inspired impulse on the one 
hand and the premediated enjoinment 
on the other, it risks forgetting the 
boundaries of those areas of reasoned 
response which help retain within 
sigh, the central fact — that a live 
wom.iii. who has committed no crime 
meriiing the ultimate punishment, 
dies in the act. W'hat has happened is 
that ghatana has been appropriated as 
a stepping stone in establishing a 
pratha. and this is at the core of the 
sati issue today. 

rhis partly explains the kind of 
semantics that has made possible “dis- 
cussions” of whether the woman 
should mount the pyre “after it has 
been lit” or before. (She is supposed 
to jump “into the pvre” which is 
already alight, since otherwise, her 
son who applies the torch wall be guilty 



SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 


79 


BOOK EXTRACT 



THE PROPONENTS 

Bharatiya Janata 
Party leader 
Vijayaraje Scindia 
argues that sati is 
part of Hindu faith. 
“No woman,” she 
says, “wishing to be 
sati could be 
deprived of her right 
to that faith” 


of killing a Brahmin!) Semantics was 
again involved when the pundit who 
interpreted the scriptures for the Brit- 
ish law courts used the phrase “It is 
the inheritance of every Hindu 
woman” (italics mine) — inheritance 
can mean a right as well as something 
that (willy nilly) devolves on one. The 
ambiguity was ifraught with mischief. 

I t is recognition of the power of in- 
doctrination and precept that the 
law on sati promulgated in 1987 in- 
cludes a ban on all kinds of glorifica- 
tion of the rite and forbids the erection 
of temples or other memorials in hon- 
our of women who became satis. 
Under this enactment, all speeches or 
actions eulogising sati become off- 
ences liable to punishment; congrega- 
tions for the purpose of glorifying sati 
are also forbidden. This has been chal- 
lenged on the grounds that such a law 
.contravenes the freedoms guaranteed 
to an individual under the fun- 
damental rights of the constitution. 
One of those who subscribe to this 
theory that the law infringes upon 
citizens’ rights to faith, free speech 
and action, argues that if he believes 
in the power of sati he should be free 
to glorify it. 

But would that not lead to indoc- 
trination and, through indoctrination, 
to a perpetuation of the rite? No, he 
insists. Sati immolations are not the 
result of indoctrination. 

The Ram Sati temple at Jhunjhunu, 
he argues, draws tens of thousands of 
visitors throughout the year and yet 
these multitudes of women have not 
gone on to burn themselves as satis — 
and therefore glorification cannot 
cause indoctrination. 

Such a discounting of the indoc- 
trination theory can be demolished 
with a counter-analogy — if one person 
gets knocked down in a traffic acci- 
dent every week at a particular spot 
where 1 (),()()() persons pass by, it would 
hardly be admissible to argue that pre- 
ventive action is unneccessary in view 
of the small number of victim-, among 
those passing by. 

A petition filed in the Supreme 
Court on behalf of the Shank- 
aracharya of Puri, claims that the law 
violates Article 19 of the Constitution 
which guarantees freedom of speech 
and expression, and the right to 
assemble peacefully. The prohibitory 
enactment is, therefore, in his view, 
“an insult to democracy” and “against 
religion, civilisation, culture, ethics 
and morality”. “Every Hindu” he has 
urged, “should die opposing the law”. 


(The Shankaracharya was to give an 
address on “sati dharma is ancient 
Vedic tradition”, on 28 March 1988 at 
the annual convention of the Akhil 
Bharatvarshiya Dharma Sangh — The 
All India Religious Association — of 
which he is president. Swami 
Agnivesh went to the Supreme Court 
declaring that this would amount to a 
breach of the law under the section 
prohibiting glorification of sati, and 
the Supreme Court issued a restrain- 
ing order, so that the Shankaracharya 
had to call off his address.) 

The spirit of the law prohibiting the 
glorification of sati is clearly lost in 
this contention by the Shankaracharya 
that under democracy citizens must 
have the liberty to say and do what 
they want even if it amounts to incite- 
ment to behaviour that would contri- 
bute to a violation of another clause of 
the Constitution which forbids discri- 
mination on grounds of sex. 

Article 25 of the Constitution 
guarantees freedom to all persons to 
profess, practice and propagate reli- 
gion. By declaring that widow im- 


molation is sanctioned by textual re- 
ference and is part of the Hindu reli- 
gious practice, the Shankaracharya in- 
sists that the ban on sati amounts to an 
infringement of a widow’s right to be- 
come a sati. But these textual refer- 
ences do not include the mam Vedas 
which arc pre-eminent among the 
scriptures, nor does Manu’s code 
which takes precedence over other 
texts mention — much less enjoin™ 
sati. Sati has acquired religious back- 
ing only because commentators from 
the sixth century onwards drew up 
interpretations that reflected, and in 
turn reinforced, the social trends in 
each period, and these trends included 
a fall in the status of women in the 
society. 

The same “freedom to profess” 
argument is used by other pro-sati 
proponents too. “1 am against sati as a 
practice”, says Kalyan Singh Kalvi, 
president of the Rajasthan state Jana- 
ta Party, who spearheaded the pro-sati 
movement in 1987. “It should be 
punished as suicide. But once it is 
done, what is the point of harassing 
innocent people? Again, once it is 


80 


SUNDAY 1 9 January 1 991 



BOOK EXTRACT 




RF.LIGIOUS SANCTION 

While the 
Shankaracharya 
blames those who 
“insult sati” for the 
untimely rainfall that 
destroys crops, 
thousands throng 
the sati temple at 
Jhunihunu to 
propitiate the divine 
goddess 


committed, there are certain rites 
which must be done. No one can inter- 
fere with these rites'*, he had said. 

This stand too otters a spurious 
logic that could be applied to every 
illegal act (murder included) claiming 
de facto immunity. The Bharatiya 
Janata Party leader, Vijayaraje Scin- 
dia has also criticised the law on simi- 
lar grounds. The Indian Constitution, 
her argument points out, recc.gnises 
an individual’s right to faith, and sati is 
part of the Hindu faith, she says. “No 
woman, wishing to be a sati after her 
departed husband, could therefore be 
deprived of her right to that faith.” 
Like the Shankaracharya of Puri she 
too has declared that she would 
oppose such a curtailment of rights 
even in the face of the possibility of 
imprisonment. However, any element 
of coercion in the act, she says, would 
defeat the “sublime purpose” of im- 
molation and would be an offence. 

Again and again, this is the argu- 
ment put forward against the legal ban 
on sati — that compulsion is to be con- 
demned, but that sati is always volun- 
tary and that for a woman who thus 

SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 


wishes to end her life voluntarily, the 
law IS an encroachment on her fun- 
damental right. 

The president of the Institute for 
Oriental Study at Thane on the out- 
skirts of Bombay, Dr V.V. Bedekar, 
has described the enactment as “the 
blackest bill ever passed”; he has de- 
clared that it is only in communist and 
autocratic countries that ideas are reg- 
imented and people are compelled to 
believe in doctored thoughts and 
ideologies 

“By this bill women in India have 
lost their freedom to die of their own 
will Male chauvinism has won again”, 
he states, in this hijacking of the 
feminist perspective for ends other 
than the amelioration of the condi- 
tions of women, the fact that the ele- 
ment of free and true volition is more 
myth than manifestation is completely 
and thorcughly bypassed. 

“11 sht chooses consciously and 
voluntarily” — that in essence is the 
issue, in the light of the pressures of 
indoctrination, mystification and 
sometimes even force, that confront a 
woman. 


So consistently has suffering been 
held up as a test of a woman’s devo- 
tion that the issue of voluntariness be- 
comes largely meaningless. 

Perceive then, the scenario of op- 
tions before the woman who has just 
been bereaved — on the one hand, the 
life of widowhood, typified by physic- 
al, financial, social and psychological 
misery stretching out for the rest of 
her days; on the other, the delusions 
of some mystified approbation, glory 
and veneration that would put an end 
to the threat of being found wanting in 
those virtues of self-negating devotion 
to her spouse that have been held up 
to her as the ideal right from child- 
hood on, an ideal fashioned by pre- 
cept, socialisation and infixion. Even 
the wisest man in a similar situation^ 
caught between two such options, 
would be forgiven for confessing to a 
sense of confusion. For an ordinary, 
mortal woman with normal human 
weakness for whom sexual vulnerabil- 
ity adds an extra dimension of hand- 
icaps, the odds are loaded hopelessly 
against a rational response. Even the 
questions of fealty and purity become 
secondary, if not irrelevant, in her 
reckoning in the face of such trauma. 

The threat of curses keeps sym- 
pathisers away; the prospects of eco- 
nomic liability urge her — and her male 
relatives — even if only in the subcon- 
scious layers of responses, to give cre- 
dence to mystique. 

And there is that pile of heaped 
wood, exerting literally a fatal fascina- 
tion, even if she were not under 
physical compulsion to enter it... 



Sat! A Study o1 Widow Burning In India by Sakuntala 
Narasimhan Published by Viking 
Price Rs 1 75 


81 




BiMMaMiii^itirniftWiriiiir ip— — 

V. GANGADHAR 

The play is the thing 


Bombay theatre and the manipulations of the media 


Dr Sohan Singh, 
head of the Pakistan- 
based Panthic Com- 
mittee, who issues 
edicts to the Piiniab 
press on what to pub- 
lish and what not to 
publish, has a kindred soul in 
Bombay. 

It is Alyque Padamsee, chief of 
Lintas advertising agency, who is 
also a well-known theatre personality. 

According to a well-researched and 
disturbing report by Ms Manjula Sen 
in the arts page of The Times of India, 
Padamsee, producer-director of the 
lavishly-mounted Othello has been 
trying to efface critics whom he cannot 
bank for favourable reviews. 

The report alleged that Padamsee 
wrote to the editor of The Sunday 
Observer demanding that Kavita 
Singh, the paper's regular theatre cri- 
tic should not be assigned to write 
about Othello. The reason? Padamsee 
felt that the critic “lacked the requisite 
knowledge the play deserved". 

Padamsee had reasons to be peeved 
with Ms Kavita Singh who had made 
critical comments on an earlier play, 
Mi.ss Julia. Padamsee supporters, par- 
ticularly from the advertising world, 
had risen in protest and dashed off 
letters to the paper questioning the 
competency of its critic. 

In this case, the editor of The Sun- 
day Observer capitulated and Kavita 
Singh was not asked to review the 
play. (Will the paper ever again write 
an editorial on press freedom?) Just to 
balance things, 77/e Sunday Observer 
initially did not carry a review of 
Othello. But their cocktail-circuit- 
dinner-party microwavc-oveivcookery 
expert-columnist, Rahul Singh, while 
admitting he was no ‘theatre critic', 
came out harshly against the adverse 
reviews of the play. 

Singh was particularly harsh on The 
Times of India review, accusing it of 
“giving a communal twist to the play"! 
He went on to sin^ paens of praise on 
Padamsee claiming that he 
aroused feelings of envy and hostility 
among the masses because of his 
“liaisons with three extremely talented 
women” and that Indians generally 


tended to pull down anyone who had 
done a good job. 

While most theatre critics had 
agreed on the well-known fact that 
Kabir Bcdi (who plays Othello in the 
play) just cannot act, Rahul Singh 
lavished praise on him. After all, 
Kabir was a friend and had figured 
prominently in an earlier Singh 
column. 


The Sunday Observer came out tar- 
nished from the episode. In the mean- 
time, producers of the play were in- 
sisting that an ‘upmarket’ Boml^av 
paper send a particular critic to review 
the pli’y. Why? Because she was 
actively involved in its production! 

Another Bombay daily. The After- 
noon Despatch <Sl Courier also played 
dirty. But that was only to be expected 
because all along it had been a Padam- 
scc mouthpiece. For days together, 
the paper had carried flattering write- 
ups on the costumes, sets, lighting, 
make-up, rehearsals and other aspects 
of Othello. “Padamsee must take his 
play to London and New York," 


crowed editor Behram Contractor, a 
long-time Padamsee admirer. 

The Afternoon Despatch Courier 
did not print the review handed in by 
its regular theatre critic, Ms Minakshi 
Raja. She was quoted m The Times of 
India report saying, “When I gave my 
review to Behram Contractor, he told 
me that Alyque had ‘advised’ him not 
to use it. When I asked him why he did 


not tell me this earlier, he replied, i 
wanted you to enjoy the play’." Con- 
tractor denied Ms Raja had ever given 
the review to him and went on to blast 
critics in general for not knowing their 
job in any case. “They are either crime 

S ers or rich housewives who can 
to spend their evenings seeing 
plays.” (One would like Mr Contrac- 
tor’s views on editors including him- 
self) Minakshi Raja is, however, an 
MS degree-holder from the Col- 
umbia School of journalism and had 
been trained in theatre reviewing. 

The Afternoon Despatch & Courier 
later carried a flattering write-up on 
Othello by an ‘occasional theatre cri- 




82 


SUNDAY 13— 19 January 1991 





tic'. Contractor would neither confirm 
nor deny that he was the ‘occasional 
critic'. 

Padamsec's arm-twisting tactics did 
not end there. The Times of India re- 
port went on to say that he garnered 
all the complimentary passes issued by 
the Tata theatre for the opening night 
of Othello so that none would be sent 
to those who would not be enarnemred 
of the show. 

Manjula Sen did try to get Padam- 
see's version and telephoned him Let 
me reproduce their conversation as it 
appeared in The Times of India: 

“You are doing a stoiy on 

Othello?" 



“Yes.” 

“When are you writing it?” 

“As soon as I finish talking with 
you." 

“What are your credentials?” 

“I am the staff reporter of The 
Times of India " 

“Tell Darryl D'Monte(the paper’s 
resident editor) to ring me up.” 
Slam went the phone. 

Does our free press put up with such 
arrogance? Fortunately, The Times of 
India did not. 1 congratulate Manjula 
Sen, the arts page editor, Shanta 
Gokhale and Darryl D’Monte for pub- 
lishing this piece which says so much 
about the character of the people 


mentioned in it. 

The entire episode raises several 
major issues. Are newspapers so 
vulnerable to advertising pressure that 
they have to bow and scrape before 
the likes of Padamsee who control a 
large advertising agency? What is the 
credibility of such newspapers if they 
succumb to such blatant intcrterence 
with ihcir editorial freedom? Why 
didn't the Ambani-owned The Sunday 
Observer say ‘boo’ to the Padamsee 
demand? 

The press itself is partly responsible 
lor landing itself in a position where it 
could be bullied by ad tycoons and 
their sidekicks. Fhe glossy magazines 
and dailies like The Afternoon De- 



spatch Courier shamelessly promote 
ad persons as some kind of supermen 
and superwomen. They are' glorified 
as trendsetters, their bed-hopping is 
highlighted as ‘beautiful rela- 
tionships’. They are endowed with an 
intellectual aura which is denied to the 
hardworking, honest, professional 
journalist. 

Men and women who promote 
third-rate products, whose talents lie 
in writing catchy copies foi underarm 
deodorants or sanitary napkins are 
asked to contribute ‘intellectual’ 
pieces on intricate political issues or 
controversial social themes. And the 
bilge is prominently displayed, some- 


times even on the hallowed edit and 
op-ed pages. 

Bombay's English stage is domin- 
ated by the ad crowd and their para- 
sites. While talent on the Hindi and 
regional language stages is ignored by 
sponsors. 

Isn’t it a bit surprising that Padam- 
see is so scared of unfavourable re- 
views? Asks Manjula Sen, “Would a 
single dissenting voice in an eveninger 
so harm the box-office success of 
Othello that artistic credibility could 
be staked in an attempt to suppress 
reviews?” Perhaps, yes. If the produc- 
er concerned is someone who goes 
around being called (jod and gets his 
office staff lined up to represent the 
figure ‘one’, indicating the premier 
position of his ad agency. 

Here’s a tip for Padamsee. For his 
next production, he should write the 
reviews himself and get them edited 
by Rahul Singh and Behrarn Contrac- 
tor. He should then distribute them 
among the newspapers and maga- 
zines. Quite a few publications would 
print them too. The Afternoon De- 
spatch eft Courier on its front page! 


Sans metre 

Having written so much on Othello ! 
and advertising, I find I’ve been taken ' 
over by the Bard. So why not end the | 
column with a bit of verse: I 

“All the world’s an ad agency j 
And all the men and women mere- 
ly supermen and we men. 

They have theii exits and entrances 
And one man in his time plays 
many parts, 

fiis acts being seven ages. At first 
the trainee. 

Copying assidiously from foreign 
magazines; 

Then the copywriter churning out 
trash to boost 

Lousy products. Then the lover 
with frequent bed-hoppings 
Which figure in all the glossies. 
Then the intellectual 
Woo’d by the media to do columns, 
funny and unfunny. 

And then the theatre king, mauling | 
Moliere, tampering I 

With Tennesse Williams. The sixth ; 
age shifts to being a j 

Know-All, commenting on all and | 
sundry. Last scene of all 
Is second childishness, abusing the 
critics, manipulating the media. 

Sans teeth, says eyes, sans taste, 
sans brains and sans everything.”# 


For his next production, Alyque Padamsee should write the reviews himself 
and get them edited by Behrarn Contractor and Rahul Singh . He should then 
distribute them among the newspapers and magazines.Quite a few 
publications would print them too 


SUNDAY 1^19 January 1991 


83 




The cup of woe 

India wins the lacklustre Asia Cup cricket tournament 


ndia won the truncated Asia 
Cup for the second time in suc- 
cession. This was the third vic- 
tory in four championships. Af- 
ter initial hiccups, India coasted 
to a seven-wicket victory against Sri 
Lanka in the finals at Lden Gardens. 

The final had been postponed by a 
day. The BCCI was actually negotiat- 
ing the possibility of ensuring that the 
match was held on 5 January, if rain 
made play impossible on Friday. The 
Sri Lankans wanted to play the game 
to a finish. They had to say a firm 
no — not just to collect their share of 
the booty quickly, but to go home to 
prepare for the important three-Tcst 
series against New Zealand. 

Overall, the tournament was a flop. 
The Asia Cup has almost always been 
an also-ran on the roster of interna- 
tional cricket competitions. It was 
made worse by Pakistan’s pull out. 

It was clear during the world 
amateur boxing competition in Bom- 
bay that Pakistan was not going to 
send a team to India. But this was not 
the first time that the four-nation Asia 
Cup tournament was being played 
witn all the countries participating. In 
Sri Lanka, for example, only Pakistan 
and the hosts played for the cup. 

But never oefore has the tourna- 
ment sparked the kind of controversy 
as this one. There was an unseemly 
squabble between the sponsors and 
the promoters — over something com- 
pletely unrelated to the game and its 
players. If that was not enough, the 
BCCI also pitched in. It is rather sad 
that this kind of thing should happen 
everytime these bodies are required to 
work in unison. 

Videocon were to be the official 
sponsors of the Asia Cup and Radiant 
Sports Management the promoters. 
Though why an official competition 
should need middlemen is anybody’s 
guess. The BCCI had sold the rights of 
the competition to Radiant Sports 
Management for Rs 30 lakhs. Initially, 
Videocon were to pay Rs 44 lakhs, but 
the figure was scaled down to a mere 
Rs 15 lakhs after Pakistan withdrew. 

T he row between the official spon- 
sors and the promoters started 


right after the first match. Videocon 
issued a statement to the effect that 
they were withdrawing and threatened 
to sue Radiant for Rs 25 lakhs. This 
figure, they said, included their own' 
expenses on the championship. 

The reasons they gave for the deci- 
sion was that Radiant Sports had 
failed to honour their commitment 
while signing the contract. The 
tournament, according to them, was 
to be named the“ Videocon Asia Cup” 
and that highlights of each match 
would be telecast on Doordarshan on 
the day of the match (in addition to a 
curtain-raiser). 

The executive director of Radiant. 
Aushim Khetrapal, countered the 
charges, saying that all commitments 
had been met, that Videocon had con- 
tract with Radiant and not the BCCI. 
And that there was no question of 
reneging on an agreement after one 
match had already been played; 
However, Khetrapal clarified that 
Videocon had already paid Rs 15 
lakhs to the BCCI as its sponsorship 
fee. 

But the sordid part of the story 


started later. The sponsors were to 
pay the Man of the Match/Series prize 
money, in addition to presenting TV 
sets to the recepients of the award. 
They fulfilled their part of the agree- 
ment after the fwst match at Chandi- 
garh. But immediately after that, the 
BCCI had to take over. 

Three matches were scheduled in 
the round-robin league and the venue 
shifted to Cuttack. But neither there 
nor in Calcutta, where the last of the 
preliminaries were held, did the spon- 
sors turn up. The BCC'l general 
secretary, Jagmohan Dalmia, had 
made contingency arrangements, 
which saved the Board from biting the 
dust. 

Meanwhile in another communi- 
que, the sponsors stated that they had 
no intention of going back on the com- 
mitment regarding the awards, “but 
no one from the promoters or the 
BCCI contacted us”. This means the 
sponsors were ready to pay, but they 
had to be asked. A situation embar- 
rassing for all the parties. 

Finally, howevei, the matter was 
sorted out and Videocon not only paid 




84 


SUNDAY 13-19 January 1991 




the prize money but handed out TV 
sets as well. 


T he tournament itself did not rise to 
great heights. The discerning fan 
seemed to have sensed it from the 
start. None of the matches drew any 
crowds. The Videocon cup was a 
waste. 

India played Bangladesh in the 
opening encounter. And this was vir- 
tually a no-match. India overhauled 
the Bangladesh score of 170 for six 
with the loss of just Woorkeri Ra- 
man's wicket. And the hard hitting 
Sidhu remained not out with 104 to 
win the first Man of the Match award. 
He was also the only one to take a TV 
set home. 

The second game featured the hosts 
and Sn Lanka. This was an altogether 
different tale — tine of unprofessional 
haste and devil-may-care altitude on 
the part ot the Indians. Lanka ham- 
mered 204 runs with the help of two 
good partnerships- -31 by the opening 
pair ot Arjuna Ranatunge and Asanka 
CJurusinghe India tottered through- 
out and finally tell for just 17S with 
four overs and more to spare. 

All told, it was a bad match tor the 
hosts. Slipshod fielding resulted in 
several chances being wasted. Wicket 
keeper Kiran More himself dropped 
two. And while batting, everyone 
seemed to be in a hurry to get back to 
the pavilion. More tried to help with 



(Top) Sponsors 
Videocon presenting a 
TV set to Man off the 
Match Azharuddin in the 
finais; (iefft) Indian 
players celebrating 
Kapil Dev’s hattrick 


his 27, but only captain Azharuddin 
and veteran Kapil Dev lent some re- 
spectability to the score, with 40 and 
32, respectively. 

Later, Azharuddin tried to blame 
the wicket, but team manager Abbas 
Ali Baig pointed out that 32 extras in a 
score of 214 was just too much. In 
fact, the only gains for India were the 
induction of Raju Kulkarni and Venk- 
atapathy Raju and the debut of Ben- 
gal’s Saradindu Mukherjee. All three 
acquitted themselves well in the initial 
stages, but Mukherjee’s future 
seemed to depend totally on the final 
at the Eden Gardens. 

The last league match allowed 
Bangladesh of raising, for the first 
time, faint hopes of a good fight in an 
international match when they had the 
Sri Lankans on a tight leash in the 
initial stages of their game at the Eden 
Gardens. But their inexperience ulti- 
mately resulted in their second succes- 
sive loss. Replying to the Lankans' 249 
for 4, they made 178 for 9. 

.^ut they did have the satisfaction ot 
hi^ving their first Man of the Match in 
this competition. Athar Ali Khan held 
his team's innings together with a grit- 
ty 78 not out, but despite the late 
flurry of sixes and fours, his stay at the 
wicket was not without blemish. And 
this prompted the Sri Lankans to once 
again voice their discontent. Earliei, 
there were complaints about the 
umpiring (Aravmda De Silva main- 
taining he was not out against India 
when he was given a verdict of caught 
behind off Mukherjee. giving the 
youngster his first intcriiational wick- 
et). This time, the entire team seemed 
to think that De Silva should have got 
the Man of the Match award for his 
6()-ball blitzkrieg of 89 runs. Adjudica- 
tor Manmohan Sood had the final say: 
“If runs or wickets were the sole 
criteria for selection, why have an ad- 
judicator? The award was given in 
consideration for both the circumst- 
ances in which they were made and as j 
an encouragement to a fledgling crick- | 
eting nation." 

But then the Asia Cup seemed to be j 
jinxed from its very inception. Not I 
only did teams back out, umpiring de- 
cisions and cricketing conditions came 
in for criticism every time the cham- 
pionship was held. Practicing for the 
final, the Lankans took it to the nets 
as well. They occupied the Indians' 
nets and, then, refused tc budge! 

The fourth Asia Cup has left the 
strange feeling that the smaller the 
competition, the more murky it is. • 

Ari§HSen/C9lcutta 


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SUNDAY 13—19 January 1991 



CNDDS AND TRENDS 


BSnd faith 

■ She is blind since birth. 
And now, at 22, she has a 
dream to show light to 
those who live in darkness. 

Hence, Kolluru Lakshmi 
Narayanamma is totally im- 
mersed in her mission of 
making the blind read and 
understand the Bha^avad 
Gita, by preparing the en- 
tire book in Braille's script. 

“I want those who cannot 
sec to see the truth of life,” 
says a determined Lak- 
shmi. 

But that is not all. She 
has also taken up the chal- 
lenge of gaining entry into 
the Guinness Book of 
World Records by writing 
the Gita in Braille for a 
marathon 24 hours. 

Her swollen thumb bears 
silent testimony to her de- 
termination. 


Gay queen! 

■ Odd but true. Urvashi 
Vaid, a woman of Indian 
origin, has been proclaimed 
‘woman of the year' by The 
Advocate, the national 


newsmagazine for 
homosexuals in the United 
States. 

According to the maga- 
zine Urvasi, a 32-year-old 
lawyer and executive direc- 
tor of the 17,000 member- 
strong National Gay and 
Lesbian Task Force, heads 
a major lobbying group for 
the rights of homosexuals. 
“She is a stunning coup for 
lesbians,” who have been 
made as invisible “in the 


gay rights movement as m 
mainstream society,” said 
the magazine. 

Animal love 

■ It was a picture of com- 
plete harmony that visitors 
were treated to at the San- 
jay Gandhi Zoological Gar- 
dens in Patna. No, not 
communal, but animal. 

A goat, Vimata, was 
seen feeding a one-month- 


old tiger cub, Rakta, as if it 
were her own child. 
According to the author- 
ities, the goat does not ob- 
ject to the practice. 

But sadly, the goat and 
the cub, found abandoned 
in the Kodarma forest a 
fortnight ago have to part 
after two months. For, then 
zoo authorities fear the cub 
will have developed the in- 
stincts of a predator. 

Water maps 

■ It was a breakthrough of 
sorts. Indian scientists us- 
ing data from satellites, 
prepared the country’s first 
atlas containing detailed 
district- wise maps of 
ground water resources. 

The 18-volume Atlas Of 
Hydrogeomorphological 
Maps Of India was pre- 
pared by .scientists of the 
Space Applications Centre- 
(SAC), Ahmedabad, who 
used remote sensing data 
provided by various partici- 
pating organisations includ- 
ing the National Remote 
Sensing Agency and the 
Centre for Harth Science 
Studies. 


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MBW DELHI:The apparently 
wrooj^ implementation of a 
directive from the Congress 
president, Rajiv Gandhi, to 
depttte “Santosh” to attend 
the all-party meeting called by 
thh Prime Minister Chandra 
Shekhar, led to a mix up. In- 
' stead of Santosh Mohan Dev, 

"" former minister of state for 
.home idfairs, it was Santosh 
Bagrodia, Rajya Sabha MP 
'.ftrom Rajasthan who repre- 
sooted the Congress. Hie mix 
: |^> came to light when M.J. 

■ ‘Afchar went looking for Dev in 
' Awliament House to find out 
>wliat had tranwired at thp 
.jmeeting —The fhnes of Indi- 
Jawed,New Delhi) 

J-|liDHIANA:A pet dog solved the mystery shrouding 
of Malkiat Singh, a farmer belonging 
village falling under the jurisdiction of 
in this district. According to police. 



the dog stationed in MalkiaFs farm house was a mute 
witness to the gruesome murder. It is alleged that the 
victim's brother, Sikander Singh, after killing Malkiat 
set the body on fire. Later he buried the half burnt 
body in the field. In a hurry he did not dig deep. In the 
meantime, the curious dog could not hold himself back. 
He dug out the earth bit by bit with his paws and 
suceeded in pulling the body out — The Hindustan 
Times{DJ. Patro, Bhubaneswar) 

UDAIPURrFilm-actress Rekha was shooting for her 
latest movie in Udaipur the other day. As the fans and 
journalists tried to muscle their way in to watch the 
cine-queen lounge in an easy chair, they were stopped 
by an elderly man in a policeman's uniform, llie pre* 
sence of a cop was enough to dissuade most people. 
Except for a few cynical scribes. Not giving a damn for 
the long arm of the law, they were very rude to the 
constable. The uniformed man, on the other hand was 
bitter and upset. For, he was the veteran extra Vasudev 
Gandhari, who has acted in over 700 films. Taking 
advantage of his costume he was trying to keep intrud* 
ers away, and was not really used to the ready give-and- 
take of eaalis that policemen revel in — Indian Express 
(Oindrilla Sen, New Delhi) 


86 


SUNDAY 1»-19 January 1991 





SUNDAY WEEK 


BEGINNING 13 JANUARY 1991 BY AMRITLAL 


ARIES (21 March— 20 April) 

This is a good week for you. You will make 
financial gains. However, do not be too 
MB dPi extravagant. Concentrate on your work and 
do not mingle business with pleasure as this 
could lead to problems later on. 

Good dates: 13, 15 and 19 
Lucky numbers: 3, 5 and 7 
Favourable direction: South 


LIBRA (21 September — 20 October) 

H This will prove to be a fairly good week for 
you . Those connected with intellectual or 
artistic pursuits will find this the most suitably 
time to achieve the desired goal. 

The domestic front will be peaceful. 

Good dates; 16, 17 and 19 
Lucky numbers: 1 , 3 and 9 
Favourable direction: West 


TAURUS (21 April— 20 May) 

■jT J This may turn out to be a fairly good week 
provided you have courage and patience to 
RrJBI combat professional and domestic problems 
An unfavourable lime for businessmen to 
l!HkJ undertake any new venture. 

Good dates: 14, 16 and 18 
Lucky numbers: 2, 5 and 6 
Favourable direction: West 


SCORPIO (21 October — 20 November) 

11 A very bright week lies ahead of you. Some 
r <^xciting prospects await you on the 

professional front. Take full advantage of 
them and forge ahead with your plans. 

Keep your temper under control. 

Good dates: 17, 18 and 19 
Lucky numbers: 2, 7 and 8 
Favourable direction: North 


GEMIN I (21 May— 20 June) 

This unfortunately is not a very good week 
for you. Your family members will tend to 
avoid you and your friends will give you some 
Jl* ^ cause for anxiety. However, 4o not be 
Jm disheartened for this is onlv amassing phase. 
Good dates: 13, 15 and 17 ^ 

Lucky numbers: 4, 5 and 7 
Favourable direction: North 


SAGITTARIUS (21 November— 20 December) 

a A very successful week lies ahead of you. So 
go ahead with your plans. The domestic front 
will provide you with all the support that you 
need. Be wary of new friends of the opposite 
sex. Keep an eye on your health. 

Good dates: 14, 15 and 17 
Lucky numbers: 1 , 3 and 7 
Favourable direction; South 


CANCER (21 June— 20 July) 

ffnrS emlJark on new 

ventures. You will achieve success on all 
fronts. Tnose in service will be praised tor 
their ability to take the right decision . The 
^ health of your beloved may cause concern 

Good dates: 15, 17 and 19 
Lucky numbers: 1, 3 and 4 
Favourable direction: South-west 


CAPRICORN (21 December — 20 January) 
ffjfraPVi This is not a favourable week for you. You 
m mav be faced with an unhappy incident at 
B home , which may cause a lot of concern. 

Moreover, your subordinates may not be 
LiiSSPJ very cooperative. 

Good dates: 16, 17 and 18 
Lucky numbers: 4, 6 and 8 
Favourable direction: Hast 


LEO (21 July — 20 August) 

a A week of steady progress. Some problems 
may crop up on the professional front, but 
they will not hinder your progress. Those 
with unmarried daughters are advised to start 
marriage negotiations rightaway. 

Good dates: 14, 13 and 16 
Lucky numbers: 5, 7 and 9 
Favourable direction: North-west 


AQUARIUS (21 January — 20 February) 

A week of excellent prospects. Those in 
! ^1^ service will gain recognition and praise. This 
is a good week for love affairs. You may find 
a partner of your choice. Your health will 
BZ0R!_j cause concern. 

Good dates: 13, 14 and 16 
Lucky numbers: 1 , 4 and 6 
Favourable direction: North 


VIRGO (21 August — 20 September) 

MM gB This will prove to be a favourable week for 
HDh you. Luck will continue to smile on you 

provided you keep a check on your purse. A 
. I# bright week for sportsmen who will be 
1 crowned with success. 

Good dates: 15, 16 and 19 
Lucky numbers: 3, 6 and 8 
Favourable direction: East 


PISCES (21 February — 20 March) 

This week may prove to be a disappointing 
one, but do not be too despondent. You will 
probably be unable to solve your problems 
e ^ this week. You are advised to be extra careful 
in deciding on your moves and actions. 

GockI dates: 15, 18 and 19 
Lucky numbers: 5, 7 and 9 
Favourable direction: South 


STAR PARTNERS; SCORPIO— TAURUS 


The need for a stable background and a domestic environment is an inescapable part of both personalities, 
bwever, their inherent stubbornness and bias of opinion mil make prospects of any long-standing harmony 

impossible. 


SUNDAY January 1991 







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That’s why I will start 
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Retirement Age (Running Age) 

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44 

41 

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35 

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88 

81 

75 

69 

64 

59 

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378 

338 

303 

273 

247 

50 

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1073 

889 

753 

648 

564 

55 


- 


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- 

1517 


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RANDOM NOTES 


Number 

unobtainable 

The Congress(I) has 
reacted badly to the 
failure of its attempts to get 
Sanjay Singh fired. At pre- 
sent» there is a state of cold 
war. Various interme- 
diaries have asked Rajiv 
Gandhi if he will allow the 
Janata Dal shuttle-cock to 
come and pay his respects 
to him. So far, Rajiv has 
been unrelenting. 

Singh is now reduced to 
trying to get an appoint- 
ment with Captain Satish 
Sharma. But the good Cap- 




Sanjay Singh: no 
connection 


tain is still annoyed about 
being accused of trying to 
murder Singh and is playing 
hard to get. 

Fortunately for the 
Amethi princeling, Chan- 
dra Shekhar intends to 
stand by him and will not 
insist on his resignation. 



Rajiv Gandhi may 
cry himself hoarse, 
I protesting that he doesn't 
I run the Shekhar govern- 
ment by remote control. 

' But such former Congress 
; ministers as Bhajan Lai, B. 

I Shankaranand and J. Ven- 
gpl Rao continue to behave 
aa if they were still in pow- 





HFARD IN CENTRAL HALL 

The entire parliamentary 
membership off the Janata 
Dal(S) consists off ministers and 
dissenters. 

A JANATA DALMP 



Congressman: “These fel- 
lows think they've already 
regained their lost minis- 
terships. But merely sitting 
on a chair does not mean 
they’re back in po^er.” 


All that glitters 


er — and occupy the same 
seats in Parliament. 

Members were appalled 
to see that during the last 
session, while Shankara- 
nand sat in the first row, 
occupying the seat next to 
the Prime Minister, Bhajan 
Lai and J, Vengal Rao 
adorned the second, 
though as mere MPs they 
were not entitled to do so. 

Said one disgusted fellow 



Shankaranand: grab that 
seat 


THERMOMETER 


Who's doing what in the BJP 


■ L.K. Advani: From Uncle Walrus to Feuhrer in 
one rath yatra. The new Muslim-bashing Advani is now 
the idol of the neighbourhood communalist and on a 
bizarre coalition of trouble-makers, bigots and fascists, 
IS the BJP’s new identity based. 


■ A.B. VajpayMS Remember the slogan, Pradhan 
Mantn agli bari, Atal Behan'? Yes, Vajpayee remembers 
It too and he’s not very pleased by the party’s descent 
into the politics of the shakha. But he’s keeping his 
mouth shut in public. 


■ Pramod Mahajan: it is symptomatic of the new 
BJP that this man would be equally at home in the Shiv 
Sena He was the most extreme of Advani 's rath vatns 
and now when he gets up m Parliament, some 
members hold their heads in their hands and wonder 
where the party is going. 


What’s a little gold — 
and a lot of silver — 
between friends? 

Nothing to write to the 
goverment about, if 
Chaudhary Devi Lai’s re- 
cent behaviour is anything 
to go by. 

Of late, the Tau's sup- 
porters have been organis- 
ing a number of rallies (re- 
member the bash in 
Meham? And no, we're not 
talking about poll violence, 
either) at which Lai is cere- 
moniously crowned with a 
gold mukut, and give.n a sil- 




■ Dr J.K. Jain: His critics call him the living 
embodiment of the adage that the BJP is a party of 
Bania fascists. The fascism bit is a reference to his 
video-cassettes; the Bania tag has been given a new 
relevance by his speech in Parliament last week. Asked 
to defend himself against charges of communalism, he 
got up and complained that video piracy was cheating 
him of his profits. 


■ Govind Acharya: Still the party’s think-tank and 
the favourite “intellectutal" of those who believe that 
the capital of India should be in Nagpur. His RSS-style 
politics guide Adypni. 


a Anin Jaitlw: it's back home for a former V.P. 
Singh groupie. cJespite rumours that the Express lobby 
had more in common with the Raja than with Advani, 
Jaitley has returned to base in the BJP. 


xua- 


■fr 


> ^ 


Devi Lai: oM Is gold 

ver stick too, presumably, 
help him keep Chandra 
Shekhar in order. ! 

Neither of these things i 
come cheap. But despite j 
the stipulation that all gifts 
above a certain value be de- ; 
posited in the toshakhana \ 
or state treasury, the Tau ; 
continues to stash away his 
trea.sures well out of reach 
of the long arm of the gov- 
ernment. 

After all, isn’t gold a 
politician's best friend? 

“7 • ^-rC— gg 


SUNDAY 1;^19 January 1991 









DELHI DIARY 


Bye-bye Rajiv? 

■ Sharad Paw/ir’s de- 
fiance of Rajiv Gan- 
dhi has now reached the 
level where the question at 
10 Janpath is not whether 
Sharad will go but when. 

After assuring the local 
Congress unit that he 
would not call municipal 
elections in Bombay, Shar- 
ad proceeded to go back on 
his word and unilaterally 
announced elections. 

Why does Rajiv mind? 
Simple enough. With the 
Hindu wave sweeping the 






HEARD AT 24 AKBAR ROAD 

Chandra Shekhar is proving to 
be the best Prime Minister the 
Congress never had. 

AN AICC(I) FUNCTIONARY 


MeetRamu,my 

host 

■ Devi Lai’s new ruling 
that ITDC hotels will 
give 50 per cent discount to 
men in dhotis (see Spot- 
light) has sent the corpora- 
tion’s employees into a diz- 
zy. While they are all for 
the Tau’s promotion of ru- 
ral welfare, the directive is 
less than clear on several 
subjects. For instance: 

(a) If a farmer arrives in 
a pyjama is he to be denied 
the discount? And if a Mar- 
wari sethji arrives in his 
dhoti, is he still entitled to 
the discount? 

(b) How do you define 


dhoti? Docs a south Indian 
lungi count? What about 
north-ea.stern outfits? 

(c) The discount depends 
on how the man paying the 
bill is attired. If a farmer 
brings his wife and son 
(who are not wearing dho- 
tis), they will all get a dis- 
count because the dhoti- 
clad farmer is the host. 
Makes sense, right? 

Okay, but try this. What 
happens if a very affluent, 
trendily-attired party of 20, 
brings along a dhoti-clad 
chowkidar or servant, and 
claims that he is the host? 
Does the whole table still 
get a discount? 

At ITDC headquarters 


Sharad Pawar: deal wHh 
Thackeray . 

country, the Shiv Sena is 
certain to win the polls. At 
this stage the Congress can- 
not afford a defeat of any 
sort, particularly as many 
people see Rajiv as the next 
Prime Minister. 

So, why has Sharad done 
it? Again, this is cjuite easy, 
to work out. His insurance 
policy against being fired 
oy Rajiv is an alliance with 
the Sena. If Pawar defects 
with one-third of the state 
Congress(I), then the Shiv 
Sena can form the next gov- 
ernment in Maharashtra. 

A Sena victory in the 
municipal elections serves 
two purposes. One: it 
pleases Bal Thackeray, 
whom Sharad is trying to 
cultivate. And two* it gives 
the impl^ssion that the 
Sena is more popular than 
the Congress in Maharash- 
tra. So, when Sharad does 
defect, it will seem like the 
most normal thing in the 
world. 


The parliamentary windbag stakes 




Ram Dhan: His motto seems to be “ Pump up the 
volume” . During the Subramaniam Swamy uproar it 
was Ram Dhan who attracted the most attention with 
his breast-beating, chest-thumping demands for 
Swamy’s head. 

SubhashinlAH: A rebel without a pause. In her 
time, All's done it all: agitprop in Bombay's+ social 
circles, marches for communal harmony and Jack and 
Jill Marxism. In her current avatar as a CPl(M) MP. she 
Is a noisy second to Ram Dhan. 

MpalRaddy: less noisy than before but raucous 
all the same, last week, the Telugu terror entered into a 
slanging match withR.K, Ohawan and emerged 
second-best, Nevertheless, he got his name in the 
papers. 

K»P. UnildcritrtllUHi: How they miss his large, 
loud presence In the House. Unni is much-mellowed 
these days, attacks nobody and is sometimes not even 
in town when Parliament is In session. 

JayanlMNBtaralm: Not as vocal these days. 
Jayanthi returned to form briefly to sock it to Kalyan 
Singh Kalvl, but on the whole she’s going for the 
low-key, mature approach and ab^doning the fiery 
persona of old. 


nobody knows the answers 
to these questions. And no- 
body dare ask the Tau. 


Social climbers, 
an? 

■ The race to become 
the next high com- 
missioner to London is hot- ' 
ting up. The foreign minis- 
try has been informed that 
the Congre.ss party's candi- 
date is Romesh Bhandari, 
the suave former foreign 
secretary. There are two 
problems with Bhandari's 



RontBsh Bhandari: yes, 

candidature. Firstly, Rajiv 
Gandhi denies that the 
Congress has any favourite 
for the job. And secondly, 
Shekhar has demonstrated 
a tendency to be nice to 
Bhandari— -and then, give 
him nothing. For instance, 
shortly after Shekhar be- 
came PM, he spent a lot of 
time with Bhandari but re- 
fused to make him Lieute- 
nant-Governor of Delhi. 
That job went to the dis- 
tinguished former police 
officer Markandeya Singh. 

The other candidate for 
the London High Commis- 
sion is Maharaj Kumar 
Rasgotra, the silver-haired 
super-smoothie, who was 
not able to complete his last 
term in the job. Rasgotra 
would like to go back, but it 
is not clear whether Rajiv 
Gandhi supports his 
didat^. 


90 








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OuitOhD-NHB 1590 



CONTENTS 
















Anew 

beginning 


A n abrupt end was 
brought to military 
rule in Bangladesh {The 
second liberation, 23 — 29 
December). General 
Lrshad’s resignation was 
most unexpected. For 
democracy to succeed in 
Bangladesh, mere rhetoric 
will not suffice. I'un- 
damentalism and the power 
of the military should be 
curbed. Most importantly, 
free and fair elections 
should be held. 

A. Jacob Sahayam, 
Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) 

■ The people of Bang- 
ladesh should be congratu- 
lated for their second li- 
beration. It was a people’s 
movement that led to 
Lrshad’s ouster. The refus- 
al of the army to fire upon 
demonstrating students was 


also significant. 

It is to be hoped that 
democracy can now gain a 
foothold in Bangladesh. 

Lakshman Sharma, 
Chumukedima (Nagaland) 


Oily problem 


T he Centre has made the 
correct decision in im- 
porting coconut oil with a 
view to putting the mer- 
chants in their place {Coco 
loco? ’ 30 December 1990 — 
5 January 1991 ). The oil 
and coconut dealers in 
Kerala are ruthless. They 
hike prices at will and if 
they do not get the price, 
they hoard the stocks. This 
is a racket that the state 
government cannot and will 
not break. 

Unfortunately, it is the 
poor people who pay the 
price. 

U.S. Iyer, Bangalore (Karnataka) 

■ 1 disagree with the views 
expressed in the story. A 
raw coconut costs Rs 5-6, 
which is the highest price I 
have seen in Kerala. Under 
such circumstances, it is 
doubtful that coconut far- 
mers will suffer if coconut 
oil is imported. 

If the government is real- 
ly concerned about the dai- 
ly wage-earners and those 
living below the poverty 
line, imports of the product 
should be increased. 

R.B. Nair, Itanagar (Arunachal 
Pradesh) 


Man Friday 

T he profile of Kamal 
Morarka ( The reluctant 
minister, 3(1 December 
199(1— 5 January 1991) 
probably reveals the real 
person in Morarka. And it 
may suit his important role 
without others realising it. 
For, Morarka happens to 
be the eyes and ears of the 
Prime Minister. 


Only time will tell 
whether he is a success and 
the fittest person to hold 
the post. And one expects 
him to give a good account 
of himself, for he is untried 
and untested. 

A. Jacob Sahayam, 
Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) 


Seeds of hatred 


O ne false step can create 
communal disharmony 
and set the country aflame 
( Winter of hatred, 23 — 29 
December). Uma Bharti’s 
insistence on addressing a 
public meeting in Etah dis- 
trict added fuel to the fire. 
She failed to achieve any- 
thing but the country paid 
dearly. 

Narendra Dave, Bombay 
(Maharashtra) 


Credit, not cash 


C ounterfeit currency is 
growing by leaps and 
bounds in our country {The 
money changers, 23 — 29 
December). The main 


reason is that our society is 
primarily cash-based. 

To prevent this, the use 
of credit cards should be 
encouraged. 

Counterfeiters rule the 
roost because of the abund- 
ance of currency in the 
market. This makes it easy 
for them to pass off the 
fakes. 

A. Srinivasa Murthy, 
Secunderabad (Andhra 
Pradesh) 


Not guilty? 


V inod Mehta is guilty of 
a crime committed 
often by the Indian media 
{Medium cool , 23 — 29 De- 
cember). He heaps praise 
on the incun I be III Prime 
Minister before ending up 
vilifying him. 

Rajiv Gandhi and V.P. 
Singh were both victims of 
this type of treatment. It is 
only a matter of time be- 
fore Chandra Shekhar 
meets the same fate at the 
hands of the media. 
Anuradha Mathur, New Delhi 


Pillow talk 

D r Prakash Kothari de- 
bunked the many 
myths surrounding aphro- 
disiacs and sex tonics (It's 
all in the mind, 16 — 22 De- 
cember). The claims made 
by the sellers and manufac- 
turers of these products 
only dupe the ignorant 
public. 

Dr Kothari is right when 
he says that the best tonic is 


Scenes of jubilation in Bangladesh: breaking the chains 




Kamal Morarka: deserving a chance 


4 


8UNDAY20-2e January IBS 





Kothari; experienced 

a sensuous, affectionate 
and understanding partner. 
Roy George, Dimapur 
(Nagaland) 

■ Dr Kothari 's views on 
sex tonics arc s^imcw'hat 
biased. He may have 20 
years in the profession of 
sexology, but. I have nuire 
than that in homoeopathy 
His iob is mt^re of a 
psychiatrist. Our only aim 
in homoeopaths is total care 

VIkram Anand, Shimla 
(Himachal Pradesh) 


Success story 

R amnath Goenka is 
savouring his enviable 
position in the country 
{Citizen Goenka, 16 — 22 
December). With many 
changes in the air, the pow- 
er of the press has in- 
creased to a great extent 
and Goenka's Indian Ex- 
press has been a part of this 
media revolution. 
Harekruahna Mahanta, New 
Delhi 


Ramnath Goanka: powerful 



Distorting 

history 


T he article. The temple 
of doom (2 — 8 Decem- 
ber, 1990) reflects on the 
writer's scant knowledge of 
the ongoing dispute which 
has already claimed 
thousands of innocent lives. 

1 would like to enlighten 
people at large who appear 
to have been misguided by 
untrue facts. In his article, 
the reporter is trying to 
malign all Muslim rulers by 
saying that “the Mughal 
Emperor Babar had, as was 
the practice of Muslim rul- 
ers in those days, (these 
words are highly objection- 
able and provocative) de- 
molished a part of the ori- 
ginal temple and built the 
mosque". On the contrary, 
Babar had nothing to do 
with the mosque or mandir, 
as the mosque was built by 
Mir Baqi (not by Babar) 
who happened to be the 
commander of local forces 
in that area. This has been 
confirmed bv the inscrip- 
tion on the plaque still pre- 
sent in the mosque. 

The reporter further dis- 
torts history by stating that 
various Hindu rulers, un- 
'iMccessfully fought Mughal 
rulers for the site! No histo- 
rian ever recorded or stated 
these findings as there had 
never been any war be- 
tween Mughals and Hindu 
rulers on any such issues. It 
dawned upon the I lin- 
dus at the behest of British 
rulers (who originated the 
theory of Ram Jan- 
mabhoomi to implement 
their policy of divide and 
rule) in 1854, only when 
Ayodhya was under Oudh 
rulers who were indepen- 
dent of Mughals. It was the 
first time in 1854 that some 
local Hindu landlords 
claimed the place at the in- 
stigation from Britishers 
and their attempts were 
foiled by local Muslim 
leaders, namely Ghulam 
Hussain and Maulwi 
Ameer Ali without any out- 


side intervention. 

The article again tried to 
mislead the readers by stat- 
ing that the Britishers kept 
the site locked and prayers 
were permitted from time 
to time. Can he cite a single 
historical record which 
proves that offering of 
prayers by Muslims was 
ever stopped by anybody 
right from the day the mos- 
que was built till the night 
of 22 December, 1949? The 
article further states that in 
1949 the idol of Ram was 
placed inside the sanctum 
sanctorum which is incor- 
rect as the idol was not 
placed in the sanctum sanc- 
torum which can be verified 
through the FIR recorded 
by Mata Prasad, constable 
present on duty at that time , 


which clearly states that the 
idol was placed in the cour- 
tyard of the mosque scurri- 
lously, and not at the place 
as mentioned in the story. 
Later on the idols were 
moved to the present place 
with the connivanre of the 
local district magistrate, 
K.K. Nayar, and that is 
why his photograph also 
occupies a place by the side 
of Ram and is being wor- 
shipped. At the same time 
a picture of the district 
judge, K.M. Pandey, who 
without examining the ori- 
ginal file lying in Allahabad 
High Court and without 
hearing the other party, 
ordered the gate of the 
mosque opened, also occu- 
pies a place near the idol of 


Ram (This has been con- 
firmed in a report by India 
Today in its issue of Febru- 
ary, 1986). 

The scribe further writes 
that Nehru ordered the site 
to be closed. Nehru never 
ordered this as he had no 
authority to do so. Instead 
he ordered G.B. Pant, then 
chief minister of Uttar 
Pradesh, that the idol must 
be removed from the mos- 
que immediately and the 
same was advised by Sardar 
Patel, then home minister 
of the Government of 
India. 

The write-up also men- 
tions that the court cases 
are pending in Allahabad 
and Kanpur High Courts, 
which shows how know- 


ledgeable he is about the 
dispute as there does not 
exist any high court in Kan- 
pur. Shilanyas was also 
done on a disputed plot No. 
586 which has been clearly 
declared by the Allahabad 
High Court to be a disputed 
area. 

1 hope that in the future 
you will not publish any- 
thing without verifying the 
facts on such sensitive 
issues which has already 
put the integrity of India at 
stake as such concocted, 
untrue and misleading in- 
formation may further 
complicate matters in the 
present days' charged 
atmosphere. 

Mohammed Zaigham Khan, 
Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) 



Babri Matjid/Ram Janmabhoomi; the root of the problem 


SUNDAY 20-2e January 1991 


5 





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SIGHT AND SOUND 





HK I AaVAN rm '.’.'lA 


- ± M 


■ India is one country 
and Indians are one 
people. It is not a 
conglomeration of 
nations. The concept of 
self determination comes 
when people think that 
various nationalities have 
come together. 

LK. Auvani, BJr 
pres idem, on S.S. Mann's 
demand for self 
determination of the Sikhs 

■ Self determination 
means greater autonomy, 
greater autonomy for the 


people ot Punjab. That is 
the root ot the problem, 
not Pakistan, 

S.S. Mann, Akah bal 
(Mann) president 

■ Let Mr C'handra 
Shekhar go to Ludhiana 
lor a day and meet the 
people and realise how 
the people are living in a 
state of fear and 
panic... What i